How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?  Change?

Posted August 14th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

youth group 051By Robert Fontana

Of course, change certainly does happen in the Catholic Church.  However, it is usually excruciatingly slow.  There is a fight for change going on these days, and two dominant forces in this fight are Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, and U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Burke wants the church to return to the glory days of Catholicism in the 1950’s.  For him the Church is a monarchy established by God through Jesus to the Pope/Bishop.  Authority flows from the top down, and obedience to truth through the Church is the clearest sign of holiness.  Burke has history on his side, but not Scripture.  The biblical model of Church is a community of disciples with leaders who work together to preserve the unity of the Church (see Galatians 1).  The Church as “Monarchy” has been the dominant model at least since the time of Charlemagne (747-814 AD) and the Holy Roman Empire.  The councils of Trent (1600’s) and Vatican I (1870), which Burke embraces, reaffirmed the structure of the Church as a monarchy.

Pope Francis advocates for changes which are inspired by the example of Jesus, as interpreted by the Second Vatican Council, and by his own experience of living and working among the poor in Buenos Aires.  Pope Francis rejects the notion that the Church is a monarchy.  He sees the Church as a missionary community of Disciples of Jesus, with ordained ministers who are servants within the Church rather than an aristocracy.  He wants love and mercy, not rigid adherence to rules and regulations, to be the defining characteristics of the Catholic people.

Historian Garry Wills argues in his book, The Future of the Church with Pope Francis, that change is the great story of Catholicism.  It is change, states Wills, which has permitted the Church to survive for two thousand years when empires of one kind or another have come and gone.  Change, however, has not necessarily made Catholics closer followers of Jesus.  Here are two significant changes that have happened in the Church.

jesus and childrenJesus practiced and taught non-violence:  Jesus was a pacifist, and, for at least the first three centuries of Christianity, so were his followers.  Yet, for the past 1,700 years, the Church has taught that war waged for a just cause is moral and consistent with Christian faith under certain conditions.  Eventually this led to popes having armies which they used to wage war against heretics, the Christian kings in Europe, and the Muslim nations.  Was this change from pacifism to a just war theory good or bad for the Church?

Catholic/Christian oppression of Jews:   Anti-Jewish sentiments fill the pages of early Christian writings, beginning with the Scriptures – the Gospel of John, and including church councils, and writings of great saints and popes.  Here’s one example from Pope Eugenius IV in 1442:

“We decree and order that from now on, and for all time, Christians shall not eat or drink with Jews…shall not allow Jews to hold civil honors over Christians, or to exercise public offices in the State… All and every single Jew, of whatever sex and age, must everywhere wear the distinct dress and known marks by which they can be evidently distinguished from Christians. They cannot live among Christians, but in a certain street, separated and segregated from Christians…”    (see www.talmudunmasked.com/appendix  )

This vicious anti-Semitism did not formally end until the Second Vatican Council in 1965 when the Bishops declared Jews to be our elder brothers and affirmed the teachings of St. Paul, that the covenant between God and the Jews still holds true today (see Documents of Vatican II, Nostra Aetate).  Was reaffirming God’s covenant to the Jews after almost 2,000 years of denying it, good or bad for the Church?

 

  1. mary magdalenLay people fund the church but have no effective voice. The laity pay for clergy recruitment, training, salaries, housing, vacations, retirement, the purchase of all properties, construction of buildings, materials for ministry, and salaries/benefits for lay employees. Yet, every board of lay people, from the parish pastoral and finance councils, to diocesan councils, to the pope’s council on clergy sex abuse, the laity role is advisory.  The laity have no legal rights in canon law and exercise no power over how money is spent, though we provide all the funding.  This needs to end.  Lay members of boards and committees ought to have decision-making authority regarding how money is spent in the Church.  What do you think?
  2. The Mass reinforces the notion that the priest is “king.” Pope Francis has complained that too many bishops and priests act like aristocrats.  I think the structure of the Mass supports this clericalism.  When Mass begins, the priest processes into the church with ministers of different ranks, much like royalty at court in a 17th-century European monarchy.  Only the ordained are permitted to preach.  This needs to end.  Let the priest presider welcome all to Sunday worship at the beginning of Mass from the pulpit and then invite the community to stand to welcome the Scriptures, the Word of God, as it is brought into the assembly for the proclamation of the Gospel.  And let the priest presider welcome gifted lay people, men and women as preachers of the Gospel.  What do you think?

pope francisChange today.   Just because Catholics have taught something and acted in a certain way for 1,800 years is not enough reason to continue doing so.  Pope Francis is trying to inspire Catholics, clergy and laity, to change how we see ourselves – Missionary Disciples of Jesus– which will effect a change in our behavior.  He urges us to become a field hospital for a suffering world.  This will eventually effect change in Church structure and worship.  My guess is that Cardinal Raymond Burke thinks this is a mistake; I don’t.

A Sunday Homily (I Preached!)

Posted July 27th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

I was asked to help the pastor and give the homily at a local Catholic parish.  I spoke at all three Masses.  Here it is:

jesus“He spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Mt 13:1-9

I’m going to need your help with this homily.   When I ask you, “Who’s the word of God?”  Would you reply, “JESUS!”

Let’s practice: “Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

What is this “seed” that Jesus is “scattering?”  It’s a relationship with God!  And it’s a relationship with God offered to EVERYONE, good, bad, and indifferent!  Remember this.  The “Word of God is not fundamentally a doctrine, a moral concept, rules and regulations, or even a book, but it is a person, Jesus the beloved Son of the Father.  Jesus risen and in our midst.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

Back to the parable, I want to suggest to you that the various types of soil receiving the seed, describe us. We are all these kinds of soil all the time, at any given moment of our lives.  I am at once rocky soil, shallow soil, soil choked with thorns, and good soil.   Let me give you an example from my own life.

I was raised in the south during segregation.  Church for Whites, another one for “Colored.” Theater for Whites, a separate one for “Colored.”  Drinking fountain for Whites, another one for “Colored.” As a boy I could call a Colored man who was an adult by his first name because I was his equal.  And when I became an adult I would be his superior.  If I had called an adult who was White by his first name my momma would have smacked me for being disrespectful.

confederate flagI read the history of the war of “Northern Aggression,” and grew up with Robert E. Lee and other Confederates as my heroes.  My favorite college football team was not LSU, it was the Old Miss Rebels.  I hung a large Confederate flag in my bedroom at home; and I brought it to college where I hung it on my dorm wall at St. Joseph Seminary. My family did not think we were racist.  We didn’t wear white hoods, burn crosses, or use racial slurs.  We did regret that we had “lost” the civil war; but yes, glad that the country was united and slavery ended.  My culture taught me to believe that Whites are superior to people of color especially Blacks.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

In this Southern culture, what kind of “soil” was I when I was 13, when I first began sensing the stirring of faith, and yet I flew a Confederate flag? Good soil?  Bad soil with rocks and sand, and choked with thorns?

During a marital crisis, my mom and dad had an experience of God’s love and power that transformed their lives from being Sunday Catholics to daily disciples of Jesus.  One day my father came into my room to share with me about his new relationship with Jesus.  He was “planting a seed” hoping that his story would open me up to a relationship with God; it did.  As I listened to him talk, I had a burning in my heart.  I wanted to know Jesus like he did.

I began to pray, go to daily Mass, read the Bible daily, and, I joined the Legion of Mary.  My apostolic work was visiting people in the local nursing home and the county jail.

Did this new relationship with Jesus in the Church challenge my Confederate identity? NO!  Not one bit.  That seed was planted in rocky soil and wasn’t ready to grow.  Where I did grow was to discipline my teenage sexual energy, treat girls with respect, and visit the elderly and imprisoned.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

abbey_frgil_seminarians_4130 (1)My relationship with Jesus in the Church led me to St. Joseph Seminary and a friendship there with an African American monk.  Brother Aaron was my first friend who was Black.  He was from New Orleans and had a strong “Black Consciousness.”  One day he came into my dorm room and saw the Confederate flag hanging on the wall.  He asked me, “What’s that?”  I had no idea that it was offensive to him.  I said, “Cool, huh?”  Aaron could see that I was a “benign racist.”  He took me by the hand and taught me about racism in the Catholic Church.  He was planting a seed.  I went with him to Catholic worship at an African American parish and experienced firsthand the different cultural expressions between Black Catholics who were swaying to “Soon and very soon…” and White Catholics from my home parish who were singing “Come Holy Ghost.”

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

What kind of “soil” was I back in the seminary?  Fertile? Rocky? Shallow?  All of the above. Seminary helped me deepen my prayer life and continue my commitment to visit the elderly, and gave me a deep love for the liturgy and liturgical year.   The seed of the Gospel to break down racism in me was planted.  However, it would be another 10 years before I could fully admit that I carried racial prejudice within me, and that it was time to “lower the flag.”  The culture of my youth shaped me to believe that White people were superior to Black people.  My ignorance around that fact meant that I did nothing to change the vicious racial prejudice that my friend Brother Aaron and his family faced every day.  I was complicit in the sin of racism, and didn’t know it.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

Once I became aware of this, I became that good soil that Jesus spoke about in the parable, the one that produced a 100 fold of good fruit, right? No!  I’m still a complex mixture of good and bad soil, rocky and fertile, who is in a relationship with Jesus in the Church.  I believe this is true for each of us.

flowersJesus, the Sower, sows the seeds of a relationship with God in whatever soil we offer him.  Jesus wants to meet us exactly where we are in our lives, but he is not going to leave us there.  He’s going to grow something good, beautiful, and life-giving even with the “rocky soil.”   In my counseling I sometimes hear a client say that he cannot pray or go to Church because he is ashamed of his life—of his sins and past mistakes.  I would say to all of us, please do not stay away from Jesus because you feel unworthy, because you feel like a hypocrite, because your spiritual soil is too shallow, or rocky, or choked with thorns. You are also “GOOD SOIL.”

Today at this gathering, at this Eucharist, don’t be afraid to bring to Jesus the whole you, the good and the not-so-good, the rocks and weeds of your life as well as the fertile soil.  Ask Jesus to grow something beautiful, good and life-giving in your personal life.  You know he will do it.  It may take time, as in my case, but he will do it.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

 

 

 

 

“I support the many good works of CLM”

Posted July 16th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
Comments Off on “I support the many good works of CLM”

Dear Friends, we are raising money for Catholic Life Ministries.  We do work that you believe in.  When you    invest in CLM with a tax-deductible donation, we become your hands, heart, and feet in the work of awakening faith, strengthening marriages and families, counseling the deeply troubled and mentally ill, and building up the  Christian community.  Here’s why one CLM sponsor supports our work:

malletMy Witness/Testimony to C. L. M. Ministries, Msgr. Charles J. Mallet – Lafayette, La..

It all started some 62 years ago!  I was Ordained in 1955, I was appointed assistant pastor at Tony & Evelyn Fontana’s [Robert’s parents] parish church in Abbeville, La.  Robert was “very young.” His youngest brother John is my god-son!  When the time for his [Robert’s] wedding came, I was privileged to be “the Church’s official   witness”!  

 Since 1981, Robert & Lori have dedicated their lives to the “service of the Church” in the area of “Family Life – Marriage Strengthening – Divorce prevention through family counseling – Building strong Christian communities – Youth Camp retreats – etc…etc…. in Washington state &         Oregon…..Montana, California, New Jersey, Texas, Alabama & Louisiana……and even       internationally (e.g. Belize, Central America)!

 To better prepare himself for this precise & complicated ministry, Robert has [through the years] returned to Universities and has sought &  earned degrees (Master’s & Doctorate’s) in related fields…..and with the help of God, has developed a particular competence, creativity, and grace in this most important rock-foundational ministry! 

mallet 2With remembrance at daily Mass & prayer and, with a monthly donation-stipend, I    support the many good works of C.L.M.   May I ask you to please do the same!

 Msgr. Charles J. Mallet – Senior Priest

 If you support CLM, here is where your money goes: 

¨ Your donations pay my (Robert) salary.  I make $36,000 a year.  You are hiring me (with Lori volunteering lots of time too) for CLM’s work – work you believe in: marriage enrichment & preparation; days of prayer, study, and service; youth outreach.

¨ Your donation helps me provide counseling for couples, families, and individuals from a Catholic Christian perspective.  This does not mean I impose my faith on my clients.  It does mean that I pray for them, and   prepare to utilize all the psycho-spiritual resources available to me and them for their healing.

¨ Your donation allows us to offer program scholarships for low-income people, to stipend outside speakers and teachers, to rent office/retreat space, and to pay for office expenses including this newsletter.

Ask the Lord.  Lori and I understand that you get many appeals to help wonderful organizations from across the country.  You know the integrity of our lives and the quality of our work.  Please pray about joining us as partners in ministry to do the work that you believe in.  Should the Lord give you a nod our way, please use the enclosed pledge card to help you determine your level of support.  We have people of modest means who send us $5 a month. Others, who are able, donate $50-$150 a month.  Please also make a commitment to pray for us.  We commit to pray for you every Thursday. You may include your prayer intentions on the enclosed form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Little, the Holy Spirit, You, and Me

Posted May 30th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

chicken littleThis is Pentecost week.  Naturally the story of Chicken Little comes to mind:

There was once a great knight riding upon a mighty horse when he came upon Chicken Little running around the countryside shouting, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”   Suddenly, Chicken Little threw himself to the ground, lay on his back, and thrust his legs and wings towards the sky. 

The great knight leaped from his mighty horse and said to Chicken Little, “Why art thou thus lying in the dust?” Chicken Little calmly responded, “The sky is falling.”  The great knight laughed out loud with incredulity and dismay, then said, “And you, little bird, think that you can hold up the sky?” Chicken Little responded, “I does what I can do.”

Francis of Assisi once said, “I have done what is mine to do, now you must do what is yours to do.”

Fr. Thomas Judge, the founder of the Missionary Cenacle Family (1909) counseled his associates similarly.  I do not have the direct quote but it was something like: “Do what you can do.  Do not worry about what you cannot do, but do what you can do!”

There is so much to be done.  It is mind-boggling.  There are so many pressing needs; truly, it seems the “the sky is falling.”  And what I am actually able to do is so small, surely what the great knight said to Chicken Little applies to all of my efforts, “And how can such a little bird hold up the sky?”

fr judgeFr. Thomas Judge, a Vincentian priest, felt like the sky was falling as he, an Irish-American from Boston, tried to minister to the throngs of immigrants filling the slums of the great urban centers of 20th century America.  He had an epiphany when he realized that he was taking way too much responsibility for work that was not his to do.  It belonged to the average Catholic (and Christian) in the pew who was a neighbor to these immigrants, who met them at the grocery store, the warehouse, the butcher shop, and sometimes at the parish church.

He realized if each person would simply take responsibility for being a power for good within the relationships and commitments of his or her own life, something he called the “providence of everyday life,” then much good could be done to alleviate suffering, strengthen community, and provide care for the least among us, especially poor children and the elderly.

12694841 - shining dove against golden raysJudge recognized that the needs of families in general, and of the poor in the slums and barrios specifically, were so great, that it was impossible to create a social program to address them all.  However, if Catholics and other Christians were guided by the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit would direct them to the work that needed to be done within the “providence” of their everyday lives.How do we gain the interior freedom from our own shortsightedness and sins to even be able to act in the service of others?  And where do we get that capacity for discernment to determine what we are to do in this situation and that one, where we are to direct our energies, and what we are to leave for others to do?  Our guidance comes from the “breath of God,” the indwelling Spirit that draws us into the heart of God, the Spirit written about in John’s Gospel.

Lori and I, led by the empowering and indwelling Spirit, have directed out energies towards being a power for good by inspiring deeper faith in God and building strong marriages and families.  We do this through spirituality workshops and reretreats,  marriage enrichment events, marriage preparation classes, family camps, and divorce prevention, if possible, through marriage counseling.  There is so much more “falling sky” that pulls at us – pro-life work, outreach to migrants and refugees, and problems related to homelessness.  All of these important concerns tug at us, they are matters close to our hearts and certainly are within the providence of our everyday lives.  But, at least for now, we hear the Spirit say to us, “Do what I have already given you to do, and leave these concerns for someone else.”  This is not easy.  Saying “no” to important issues and leaving them for others to do feels inadequate…unsatisfying…feeble…and yet, the right thing to do.

Sunday, June 4th, is Pentecost, the great feast of the Holy Spirit. All around our world, “the sky is falling;” there is so much to do.  Do you have a personal relationship with this empowering and in-dwelling Spirit so that you can benefit from the Spirit’s guidance? Ask and the Holy Spirit will help you to discern what is yours to do within the providence of your everyday life.  Then the power of the Holy Spirit will help you (and me) do it!

Post your comments!

IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU READ ON THIS BLOG SITE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO SUPPORT THE WORK OF CATHOLIC LIFE MINISTRIES.  OUR MISSION IS TO AWAKEN FAITH, STRENGTHEN MARRIAGES AND FAMILIES, BUILD COMMUNITY, AND EMPOWER THE FAITHFUL TO BE A POWER FOR GOOD IN THE WORLD!  Go to: http://www.catholiclifeministries.org/donate/

 

Praying the Stations of the Resurrection

Posted May 14th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

resurrectionCatholics have grown up praying the “Stations of the Cross.”  We have been trained since childhood to walk the path of sorrow and suffering in imitation of Jesus.  We do this so that we are strengthened in our resolve to accept the “crosses” that come our way as we seek, like Jesus, to do God’s will, not ours.  Maybe this explains why outsiders who attend Catholic services often complain that there is, “not much joy coming from the Catholic faithful.”

What if we placed an equal amount of emphasis on Easter and encountering the Risen Jesus as we do on Lent and walking with the suffering Jesus?  What if we sought to encounter Jesus alive and present to us today just as He was present to His disciples in the days and weeks following his resurrection.  Remember, Christian faith in its Catholic form (or any form) is not primarily a doctrine to be believed or a moral code to follow.  It is about encountering a person, Jesus, God’s beloved Son, who is as alive for us today as He was 2,000 years go;  Jesus, who loves us with all the passion and energy of God, and who fills us with His life and breath; Jesus, the Risen One, who frees us to love and be loved.

joyWouldn’t such an encounter bring joy to our difficult and demanding lives! Wouldn’t such an encounter liberate us from the emotional roller-coaster of placing our hope and well-being on how people treat us, the ups-and-downs of the economy, or the latest political news out of Washington.  We would look forward to the Sunday gathering of disciples with joy in our hearts, knowing that the One who is convening this gathering is none other than the Risen Lord Himself!

Lori and I have developed the Stations of the Resurrection to help us and you pray through the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, with the knowledge that the truth of these stories, Jesus alive and present, is happening right now!  The “Stations of the Resurrection” are 13 different episodes from the resurrection stories of Jesus, arranged so that the reality of Jesus’ risen life will unfold before us we pray through them.  These stations are best prayed with others and in a garden or a park if possible.  If you mark 13 stations and move from one to the next, be sure to sing a familiar hymn or Alleluia when moving from station to station.

Each station is followed by a comment from a disciple of Jesus from history (a saint) who knew the risen Jesus personally as we are trying to do so today.  They are living proof that the Risen Jesus continues to be an active presence accompanying all who love Him, regardless of time, place, and station of life.  We are meeting the risen Jesus!  We are hearing His voice!  We are receiving the Holy Spirit!  Alleluia!

The Stations of the Resurrection are too long to put on this blog site.  I’m posting the first two stations so that you have a sense of how they work.  If you would like the entire set you can download them at:  http://www.catholiclifeministries.org/archives/

Post your comments!

Station 1: Jesus is placed in a tomb.

L – We adore you, O Christ, and we love you.  All – Because by your death and resurrection you have set us free.

Joseph of Arimathea…asked for the body of Jesus…he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.   Mk 15:43-47

All:  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

 From the Saints: I know of one means only by which to attain to perfection: LOVE. Let us love, since our heart is made for nothing else. Love!…that is what I ask…I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus! Glorious deeds are not for me, I cannot preach the  Gospel, shed my blood …what does it matter?   St. Therese, the Little Flower

 Station 2: The Women and the Empty Tomb

L – We adore you, O Christ, and we love you.  All – Because by your death and resurrection you have set us free.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath…But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  Luke 23:55-24:3

All:  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

From the Saints:  O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center… How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with love.      St. John of the Cross

The practical purpose for Jesus’ suffering

Posted April 13th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

crucifixionIt is important to ask why we focus on Jesus’ suffering.  The answer is two-fold.  We remember his death because it was/is salvific in that it offers all of humanity and creation itself forgiveness, new life in the Spirit, and everlasting life.  But there is a more specific and practical purpose for focusing on the suffering of Jesus, as stated in 1 Peter 2:21: “Christ suffered for you that you should follow in his footsteps.”

The intent of the epistle of Peter, written to Gentile believers, is to help them fully live and witness to their faith in a hostile social environment.  These Christians were unjustly suffering in many ways – ridicule, social shunning, disqualification for public office, with the threat of physical harm as had happened to the followers of Jesus some twenty years earlier during the persecution of Nero.   The writer makes it clear what the practical meaning of Jesus’ death is for them: Christ suffered for you that you should follow in his footsteps.”

What were some of the unjust sufferings that these people endured?  The letter does not identify any specific forms of suffering endured by the Christians receiving the letter.  However, in reading “between the lines,” as well as considering what I know about the life of the early Church and the life of 1st-century Romans throughout the empire, I have some thoughts:

  • They were criticized by the Romans as being “unpatriotic” because they did not offer sacrifice to the emperor, which would be the equivalent today of refusing to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag or not standing while the national anthem was being played. Furthermore, the men in the Christian communities were considered cowards because they refused to serve in the army and fight for Rome.  Certainly such men were not allowed in civic leadership.  (Christian men refused allegiance to the emperor because this would mean worshiping an idol – the emperor considered himself a god.  They refused military service to follow Jesus’ teaching and example of non-violence.)
  • old coupleThe Roman elite ridiculed the behavior of Christians in their own homes. Christian husbands and fathers were dismissed by their Roman peers for being soft and sentimental with their wives and children.  Roman men were to rule over their families as Caesar ruled over Rome.  1 Peter admonishes all believers, to “love one another intensely from a pure heart (1:22) and husbands are to “live with your wives in understanding showing honor to the weaker female sex…” (3:7).   Christian husbands were faithful towards their wives. We get a sense of the difference between Roman and Christian behaviors in the family in St. Augustine’s confessions.  Augustine describes the abuse his mother received at the hands of her pagan husband who frequently visited temple prostitutes.
  • Christian women were not immune from ridicule. They broke from the behavior of their Roman peers who took pride in how they adorned themselves with jewelry, fine clothes, and braided hair.  Roman women could not understand and berated the Christian women who rejected such outward displays of beauty to develop “the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition” (3:3-4).
  • To add scandal to scandal, these Christians welcomed at their agape meal any believer from any social class: rich and poor, slave and free, women, men and children. No one was excluded if they had been “born anew…through the living and abiding word of God” (1:23) and the waters of baptism (3:21 b).  In fact, there was little class distinction at the agape meal.
  • Lastly, these believers did exclude themselves from much that was going on in Roman society: “debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and wanton idolatry, which Paul in another letter describes as “greed.” (See Colossians 3:5.)

joy 2It is probable that Christians were treated as social outcasts and threats to the common good of Roman society as our culture treats Jehovah Witnesses today.  The writer of 1 Peter is trying to help the Christians to whom he is writing not simply get to heaven, but to live full authentic lives of faith within this hostile social environment.  His deeper spiritual intent is to help believers live in complete freedom from the distorted desires of the depraved human heart (as the Romans were perceived) so that they can do the will of God by being a power for good in the world (2:15-16).

And in response to all the slander and hatred which they are unjustly receiving from their Roman peers, 1 Peter urges believers to “not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but on the contrary, a blessing…” (3:9).

WOW!  There is so much for us learn from in this letter.  I have just touched on a few points.  Yes, one must read this letter with a critical eye and an understanding of what is written that was 1st century behavior and should stay in the 1st Century, e.g. the institution of slavery (2:18), and the unquestioned obedience of wives to abusive husbands (3:1).

I am convinced that we live in an environment that is fundamentally hostile to Christianity specifically, and authentic spirituality in general.  It is a mistake to think that any one political party has the high moral ground over another.  Each is equally immersed in the “world” of power, privilege, position, and possessions made possible by money.

We Christians and all people of good will must live in this world as best we can.  1 Peter gives us insights on how to do it:  “…live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy” 1 Peter 1:13-16.

RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS WITH YOUR HELP, YEA!

Posted April 8th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
Comments Off on RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS WITH YOUR HELP, YEA!

IMG_2914Dear Friends, Catholic Life Ministries happens because of the financial and spiritual support of our donors. Recently we completed a marriage preparation program called Engaging the Engage and a marriage enrichment weekend called Hidden Treasure. The evaluations have been outstanding. We are doing good work and you make it possible; THANK YOU!

Robert and Lori

Engaging the Engaged: Preparing for a Lifetime of Success in a Sacramental Marriage

We learned how to communicate with each other, how to pray together, and how to resolve conflict.  Thank you for an amazing experience.  

There is a lot that I need to work on to be a better wife…I learned how amazing my fiancé is and all that he does for me…Thank you for accepting my faith.

IMG_2948 I need to open up more…about praying and  welcoming God…We learned some important communication skills…Thank you; you have taught me and my fiancé a lot.

IMG_2928 I need to learn/speak more of my emotions…new communications skills have been a great help…I am going to miss these sessions…Thank you for taking the time to bless us with wisdom, knowledge, and faith.

 Some important skills we learned are communication, problem-solving, and learning to forgive…Thank you for the structure of the class…These sessions put attention on things we were avoiding.

 We discovered that we both want a Sacramental marriage…We liked getting to know all the other couples…We learned to put God/Jesus at the center of our marriage.

 Hidden Treasure: Helping Couples to Discover the Amazing Gift of Their Marriage

IMG_2866I feel blessed…I loved it…many couples could benefit from all of this information.

The sessions most helpful were “Taming the Tongue” and “Marriage Is Good for Sex.”  I have more tools in my toolbox to deal with the everyday struggles of matrimony, arguments, forgiveness,  affection, friendship, honor, love, fidelity, and listening.

I feel hopeful because we don’t have to be perfect.  We need to be the best versions of ourselves for each other.  The tools [presented] over the weekend help us to be the best version of ourselves as God has meant us to be because we are not perfect.

 

IMG_2888In participating in this retreat I feel love…It reminds me that we all have a lot in common.  We all need help and     understanding at times. [This couples retreat] allows you to get to know yourself and your spouse and open your eyes. 

The session most helpful was emotional engagement because [in] my experiences, I haven’t seen emotions explained like Robert did…it was beyond my expectation.

IMG_2861[Hidden Treasure]…reinforced what I had forgotten was important in my marriage…I feel God because I was able to experience it.  I will be able to share it with others.  I saw and feel the difference it made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you win the rat race, you are still a rat.

Posted March 24th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

Regret is an awful feeling.  I’m meeting with a lot of people who have been on the fast track to American success; and now they are, well, miserable.  Some of these folks seem to have it all – great looking spouses, $1,000,000,000 homes, gifted children – and yet they are about to implode with all the stress building in their bodies over the demands of their work, tensions with those good-looking spouses, and their gifted children who are using their gifts for expensive toys, late-night escapades, and drugs and alcohol.

10543624 - an army of rats is approaching - i hope the cat is ready! 3d render with digital painting.

By certain measures, they have won the “rat race;” but they hate the persons they have become.  I’m not sure if these people would call themselves “rats,” but they often call their significant other a “rat” and a lot of other names not suitable for this G-rated column.  If only they could turn back the clock.

I also meet with young adults just starting out in life. Some are living with their love interest and are preparing for marriage now that they have school and their career path settled.  They have entered the “rat race” and are eager to win it.  How are they going to avoid the pitfalls of my older friends who now live with deep regret?

This is what I say to both groups: Are you becoming the person, family, couple that you want to be?  To put it another way: when you turn 75 and your children, family, and/or friends throw you a party, what do you want them to say about you?  If they threw that party for you today, what would they say about you?

You get to create yourself.  Yes, your family history shapes who you are, and your biology gives you certain physical, mental, and emotional parameters.  But your past and/or biology do not totally determine the person you are becoming.  You get to choose that person.  I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome your past especially if there has been abuse and /or addiction in your history. I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome certain biological limitations and challenges.  Still, when all is said and done, you can have a profound influence in shaping the person that you are becoming through the choices you make.  Here are two examples:

  • Nelson Mandela was a political activist, freedom fighter, and the first black African to be president of South Africa. Mandela spent 25 years in prison because of his work to give black South Africans the basic constitutional rights as full citizens.  He was asked by former President Bill Clinton:  tell me the truth, when you were walking to freedom the last time, didn’t you hate ’em?” He said, “Yes.  Briefly I did. I hated them and I was afraid. I hadn’t been free in so long.  And then I realized if I still hated them after I left, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.” He said, “That’s what you have to do.  That’s what we all have to do.  We have to let it go.”
  • DSCF5526Vincente was a man Lori and I met on El Camino de Santiago.  We first met him as all three of us were walking up a steep gravel path on a rainy day.  As we approached Vincente from behind, we could see that he walked slowly and with limp.  As we got closer we saw that, with one hand, he pulled a small upright basket on wheels. This contained his overnight bag. In his other hand, he held a crutch.  Clearly, he had some paralysis on one side of his body; we assumed he had had a stroke.  We stopped to talk with him; he shared his name, “Vincente,” and that he had been walking for 65 days.  He covered about 8-10 kilometers a day (5 – 6 miles) and still had at least 100 kilometers to go to reach the great cathedral of St. James in Santiago, Spain. Once he arrived there, he told us, he would meet his 85-year-old father and together they would take a holiday at the beach.  Vincente radiated joy and refused any offer to help him haul his gear up the hill.  He walked in rain and in 100-degree weather, up and down mountain passes, along some trails clearly meant only for mountain goats! He endured, taking one day at a time.  Vincente did not focus on his limitations.  He focused on what he could do; and he did it.

St. Paul writes (Romans 12:2),

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

C 3 If you are dissatisfied with who you are as a person, as part of a family, and/or in your marriage, you can change!  According to St. Paul, one gets out of the “rat race” through a renewal of the mind.  St. Paul’s exhortation coincides with current trends in psychology summarized in this phrase: change the way you think, and you’ll change the way you feel and act.  Still the transformation of the mind in Christ does not happen in a vacuum.  It happens through community. Identify the kind of person in Christ which you would like to become and start hanging around and talking with people who have those traits. If some of the issues holding you back are deeply rooted, get professional help.  Or, if you do not know what is hindering your growth, but find yourself in constant tension with the people and commitments of life, get professional help.  Get the help sooner than later.

If your car isn’t working right, you know that the longer you wait to take it to a mechanic, the worse it will be.  This is also true with the issues keeping you from becoming the person, family, and/or couple that you would like to be.  The longer you wait to get help, either from good friends or from professional counselors and spiritual directors, the harder it is to make the changes that you want to make.

Still, change is possible.  You have been created in the image of God.  You have been given the gift of free will, not simply to choose what you want to wear today or what you want to eat for supper, but to participate in creating the person that you are becoming.  If you are in the “rat race” and find that you are the “rat,” transformation in Christ is possible, no matter how old you are.  And if you are just starting out in life and don’t want to even start in on the “rat race,” that is possible too.  The choice is yours.

Post your thoughts.

_____________________________________________

Join us for the CLM Spring Retreat: “My Soul Thirsts for God” 

Sunday, April 30, 2017, Peace and Spirituality Center, (St Mary-by-the-Lake) Bellevue, WA

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The desire for God is written on the human heart” (Art 26)Most people of faith want to draw close to God; we want to know God’s love and  presence in a more personal way.  If that is true for you, consider taking time for this day of prayer. This will bee a day of quiet prayer, Scripture reflection, and small-group sharing. Set your    calendars for:

Robert Fontana will be the retreat director.   Robert has presented retreats for families, youth, and adults for over 35 years in Catholic parisrob's professional photohes and  retreat centers in Washington, Alabama, New Jersey, Montana, Oregon, California, and Texas.  He has also taught internationally in Tanzania, Swaziland, South Africa, Haiti, and Belize, Central America.  Robert has a Doctorate of Ministry and a Masters in Couples and Family Therapy.

Cost: $30 – singles, $50 – couple           Scholarships available!

Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mass at 3:30, with presider Fr. Paul Fitterer, SJ

 To register: You can register online at catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “Register for an event.”  You may also mail in the registration fee along with your name, address, phone number, and email if you have one.  Send registration to: CLM, 1827 NE 58th St, #B, Seattle, WA 98105

 

 

 

LENT 2017: GET REFLECTIVE

Posted March 10th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
Comments Off on LENT 2017: GET REFLECTIVE

By Robert Fontana

“Wait a minute, Robert, I was just at Mass. The priest challenged us to get out and serve the poor , reach out to neighbors who are suffering, and get involved with public policy to work for social change, and…”

woman-praying-at-altarI know, I know, I was at the same Mass.  And that is very tempting especially if we normally sit on our haunches and do nothing for others the rest of the year.  Lent then becomes the time to stop being lazy and do something good for others less fortunate than us.  Okay, perhaps that is what you and I need.  My problem with this approach is that, for most of us who have jobs, families, and are active in church, it simply adds additional busyness to our already busy lives.  And what it does not do is invite us to a more interior journey of prayer where we take the time – because the interior life does take time –   to examine who we are now as persons of faith, and who do we want to become in Christ.

¨ What are my relationships, habits, illusions, attitudes, biases, prejudices, attachments, addictions, and/or ambitions that are getting in the way of me becoming the person in Christ that I want to become?

¨ What are the relationships, habits, attitudes, biases, personal gifts, and practices that are helping me   become the person in Christ that I want to become?

We Christians as the one Church of God go on retreat twice a year, during Advent and Lent.  During these seasons we are often challenged to live the Gospel more intensely by reaching out to our neighbors especially the least among us.  As noble as this is, it often just adds on extra busyness which, if not accompanied by some soul-searching and deep reflection, leaves us no more  inwardly free to draw close to God and love our neighbor than when Advent/Lent began.  Interior freedom – freedom from sin and  selfishness, and freedom for love and justice – is a gift and goal that comes from being loved by Jesus:  “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery…For you were called to for freedom, brothers and sisters.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” (Gal 5:1, 13)

man-prayingCertainly, every person who takes Lent seriously ought to pray and ask Jesus to show him/her the best path for keeping Lent.  If you are drawn to “do more” this Lent be “reflectively busy.  Examine your life, who you are, why do you do what you do, and work on letting go of the little attachments, pet peeves, resentments, and bad habits that keep you from being the person you want to be in Christ.  Very often such reflection is aided by talking with a friend or elder or spiritual director with whose Christian walk you admire and respect.

You work a job, care for you family, participate in your Church.  When do you take extra time to deepen your interior life and grow in your capacity for love?  Let Lent 2017 be a retreat time for you to do just that!

Please post your comments

______________________________

Join us for the CLM Spring Retreat:  “My Soul Thirsts for God” 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

C 3Robert Fontana will lead us in a day of quiet prayer, Scripture reflection, and small-group sharing.

Location: Peace and Spirituality Center, (St Mary-by-the-Lake) Bellevue, WA

Date:  Sunday, April 30, 2017  Cost: $30 – singles, $50 – couple

Scholarships available!

Location: Peace and Spirituality Center (St Mary by the Lake),

Bellevue, WA  

 Time: 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mass at 3:30, with presider Fr. Paul Fitterer, SJ

 To register: You can register online at catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “Register for an event.”  You may also mail in the registration fee along with your name, address, phone number, and email if you have one.  Send registration to: CLM, 1827 NE 58th St, #B, Seattle, WA 98105

 

 

 

 

LENT FOR COUPLES: WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE!

Posted March 3rd, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Marriage Jackpot, View From the Pew
Comments Off on LENT FOR COUPLES: WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE!

By Robert Fontana

couple2Jane and John Doe have been married for 12 years.  They have two children, and each has told me that he/she loves his/her spouse.  Yet they are caught in an endless cycle of swearing at one another and yelling variations of, “YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE.  IF YOU DID YOU WOULD……AND YOU WOULDN’T……”

Jane and John have developed such negative thoughts about each other that no matter what the other says or does, it is interpreted in a negative and suspicious way.  Each has told me, “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”  Their marriage is holding together by a thread.

couple-withdrawingWhy did they wait for so long before they came in for help?  Imagine Jane bruising her arm badly in a fall; imagine John, cutting vegetables, getting a deep gash on his hand when the knife slipped.  Neither one goes to Urgent Care for medical care.  Then Jane and John get in an auto accident.  Jane breaks her leg, and John smashes his hand, which reopens the wound made by the knife cut; he begins to bleed profusely.  They still don’t go to ER for medical care.  THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!  When we receive an injury to our bodies, we go to the doctor for help.

It seems, however, that when we receive an injury to our marriage, when we are hurting one another over and over again, we work hard to hide it from others, and we often deny it to ourselves.  There is a social stigma about relationship and mental health challenges.  Because these health issues are often seen as shameful, embarrassing, and humiliating, we might not seek help early on, which could keep the problem at a manageable level, reasonably simple to solve.  Jane and John Doe waited until their relationship was crushed by mutual hurt and pain.  The couple was staring at an ugly and brutal divorce as they called me, hoping I could work some magic to get them back on the right track.  Can their marriage be saved?  Yes.  Will they give counseling the time, the hard work, and the patience needed to improve their relationship?  I don’t know.

hidden treasure book coverLent for couples; work on your marriage.  March 1st begins the 40 days of Lent, an ancient season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to help each of us break with sin and selfishness.  If you are married, I urge you to use Lent as a time to draw closer to one another in Christ.  If your marriage is going well, strengthen it by trying just one of these suggestions: pray together just a little more; read a faith-based book together; serve the poor together; make a retreat together; buy a copy of Hidden Treasure and do the exercises, intended to strengthen love and friendship (Hidden Treasure, a workbook to help you discover the amazing gift of your marriage, available at amazon.com or barnesandnobles.com).

If you are dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage or think that you and your spouse do not communicate as well as you should, try a retreat like Marriage Encounter (www.wwme.org), or Retrouvaille (www.retrouvaille.org) or call a marriage counselor for help.  Get help now to work through issues of miscommunication, hurt, and resentment while you and your spouse still like each other and are still friends.  If you wait to get help as a last ditch effort to avoid divorce court, it just may be too late.  At that point, you have one foot out the door and may not have the motivation to do the hard work of rebuilding your marriage.

couple holding handsPray for Jane and John Doe.  They are teetering on the edge.  With hard work, and the help of God, and the guidance of a competent therapist, I am confident that they can again become for each other a primary source of joy and happiness and minimize their being a source of frustration and unhappiness for each other.  Certainly not all marriages can or should be saved.  But I have read hundreds of case studies and books on marriage and relationship success.  I have not heard of one case in which a couple who has succeeded in working through their difficulties, regrets the hard work of setting their marriage on the right path.

Lent is here.  If you are married, consider drawing on the graces of this season to value and work on your marriage.  Pray daily for your spouse; pray daily for strong, grace-filled marriages, which form the building block of society and of the reign of God!