Sunday, November 29, 2009

Health Care: A Recent Article Published

Published September 19 in the Delaware County Times:

In the debate that is occurring in our country today regarding health care and health insurance reform, the usual loud and frequent voice of Christian leadership seems to be missing. But this issue, more than some in recent years, is demanding of the attention of all those responsible for leadership in the Christian communities.

Jesus himself spent much of his ministry healing the sick and comforting those in pain. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 25, Jesus says that those who comfort the sick are among the just who will enter eternal life. And, Jesus makes it very clear that we, in fact, are our brother’s keeper.

In the Jewish rabbinical tradition there is a teaching that the measurement of a society’s moral and political strength in light of the covenant relationship with God can be seen in how well they care for, treat, and include those who are on the margins of the society. In fact, it is believed that when Israel was most faithful to this teaching she was strong against all foes, but when greed and ambition took away from the community care of those on the margins, all of the society suffered weakness and she fell to her enemies.

As the details of legislation are worked out over the next weeks, there should be some principals that guide the passions, energies, and ministry of Christians in this regard:

Respect and civility. Questions can not be answered if no one is listening, or enabled to listen. The tactics of shouting and belittling others at meetings should never be encouraged, and is not Christian.

Hope trumps fear. A message based on fear is not one that is Christian. Nowhere in the proposed legislation are there any provisions for government monies for abortion, death panels for the elderly or sick, or plans for rationed care based on age or ability. Those who preach only fear are preaching a false gospel, often for their own political gain.

Christians have an obligation to inform their conscience. Read the legislation. Go to the White House Web site, contact the AARP, the AMA and other informed groups to find the truth. Listen to more than just one source.

Stay focused on the important moral issues:

+ Coverage for all Americans;

+ Care given based on need, not cost of treatment or amount of coverage;

+ No prejudices against pre-existing conditions or caps on coverage;

+ Transferability of coverage;

+ Decisions made by patients and health care professionals not insurance companies; and finally,

+ Measures that ensure real regulation or competition to keep costs reasonable, and corporate and executive greed in check.

Recently on the news, someone stated that health care is not a right, but a privilege. Once again, nothing can be further from the Christian moral perspective of life’s dignity. Health care is a common good derived from the benefits of God’s gifts: Nature, intelligence, and reason and thus is a right for all.

Christians need to remember that we are a religion based on “socialist” ideas. In Acts we read that the early Christian community was of one mind and heart and they each turned in their possessions for common distribution by the apostles to all according to need. Socialism is not a dirty word. Medicare/cade, Social Security, and unemployment insurance are among socialist programs in our democratic, American republic with a capital driven economy.

How well does our society care for those on the margins? How are we comforting the sick? Is our society morally and politically strong or are we on the brink of our great decline, like that of Rome, which fell to greed 15 centuries ago?

The answer to those questions might very well be linked to what we do in this very small window of opportunity regarding real health care and insurance reform. Christians need to respond and be included in how we answer those questions with informed consciences.

The (Very Rev.) Father Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM, is pastor of St. Mary of Grace Independent Catholic Church in Media.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

LGBT Spirituality and Church attendance

A recent article appearred in Politics Daily and is referenced below:

"Why Gay Guys Are Churchier Than Their Straight Brethren"

The article finds from research done that LGBT persons have a very high rate of Church life and practice despite long held stereotypes to the contrary. As a priest and pastor of a church that is inclusive, the findings do not surprise me as our most active and dedicated parish members are, by a majority, LGBT persons.

As my spiritual director once taught me, the spirituality of LGBT persons is deeply rooted in the desert and Exodus experience: A faithful God walking with us and leading us through a wilderness requiring of us deep trust, faith, and hope. From this faith, God's love can be experienced in a transforming way.

"One is that gays and lesbians are drawn to ministering to others as a result of their own experience, and that the Christian journey of forgiveness and redemption and acceptance resonates deeply with them. "One reason that homosexuals are drawn to service in the church is that many of these people have been wounded themselves. They know what it's like to feel broken, and they want to help others in whatever way they are hurting," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, who knows gays and lesbians who work in ministry despite the fact that they cannot openly identify as homosexual. "The Christian paradigm of the scapegoat -- the marginalized one, the one who suffers unjustly -- is quite powerful, especially for gay people."

Also as a formation director, I can testify to the threefold calling of all: the call to be, to live, to do. LGBT persons are confronted like no other group to really discern the first question that makes the others possible: Who am I?/How did God create me?/Why did God create me this way? Only then can one really answer: how am I to live my life and what am I to do with it?

"In a similar vein, others cite Christian de la Huerta's powerful book on gay religiosity, "Coming Out Spiritually," and his argument that gay people are, among other things, forced to mediate across the gap between their sexuality and spirituality, a divide straight Christians do not have to negotiate. So that makes LGBT people especially adept at helping others navigate a world of binaries, in particular the frontier between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Moreover, the process of coming out as a homosexual is often seen as analogous to the Christian pilgrimage of self-discovery and acceptance. "I have a theory that once you discern one call -- that God has created you to be gay -- that you are more adept at understanding God's call in other ways, as into ministry," said Kansfield."

Perhaps something for all congregations to consider is the vast riches that are there waiting to be fully appreciated in their LGBT brothers and sisters to make their communities more alive in worship, deeper rooted in integrity and faith, and grerater sharing in charity.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Uniting our Prayers with the People of Iran

Below is a letter a wrote today to the Order regarding the moral and civil crimes against humanity perpetuated this weekend by the Iranian Leadership:

Sisters and Brothers,

The unrest this week in Iran has turned from hopeful protests to bloody crackdown. A government's role in the name of Faith and Humanity is to provide security, organization, protection, public service and peace to its people. There are many forms of government that are morally good, even forms of theocracy or monarchy can fit these definitions.

This letter is written not to condemn the form of government in Iran, but to question the moral actions of the current government and leadership. Civilians have a legitimate human right to organize and protest. The weekend crackdown by the Iranian government on the vastly peaceful organizing of the civilians is reprehensible and deserved condemnation by all people and leaders of faith.

Let us unite our prayers with those of the Iranian people and ask God to grant them freedom, courage, and peace. Eternal rest on the brave martyrs who have already given their lives this week. Please make it your special intentions tomorrow, Our Lord's Day, at Mass and Hours.

I will offer a Mass for the same intention uniting all of our prayers from the altar.

Yours, one in mind and heart,

Joseph Augustine+

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

St. Mary of Grace Parish Fifth Anniversary

May 31, 2009 marked the fifth anniversary of the founding of the parish, the feast of the Visitation of the BVM and the Vigil of Our Lady of Grace, the patronal feast of the Parish. Our Lady of Grace is the oldest of the Augustinian devotions to Mary remembering the woman who so filled with God's Grace she said yes to God's call for her to give humanity to Christ. This anniversary marks in all of us in the parish, order and jurisdiction, a reminder of what God's tremendous Grace can accomplish in us as well. God has given us all that we need to bear much fruit in advancing our own life with our God and God's reign in the world.

Below is the address Bishop Timothy gave to the parish at the Eucharistic celebration of the anniversary on Saturday, May 30.

"My warmest congratulations to St. Mary of Grace Independent Catholic Church. I have had the privilege of being associated with the parish for four years, beginning with the first public Mass in June, 2005, and it became part of the Independent Catholic Christian Church in September of that year.

When I think back over the history of the parish, the key quality I see is that of faithfulness. Faithfulness to Augustinian values, as a parish that started and has continued as a ministry of the Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Faithfulness to the Augustinian value of fostering a spirituality of serving Christ with all of one’s heart and all of one’s mind, and faithfulness to the Augustinian value of community, as is taught in the Rule of St. Augustine. The parish has also shown faithfulness to the values of the Independent Catholic Christian Church – adhering to the Christian faith as taught in the historic creeds, proclaiming that the world was created by the Triune God, that God became incarnate in a human being in the person of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ has won victory for us over sin and death through the Atonement made by his death and Resurrection. Faithfulness to the values of being deeply prayerful and joyfully sacramental, fostering the life of prayer in its members by offering a number of opportunities to pray together, with the Eucharist at the center of its life. Faithfulness to the value of being radically inclusive, opening its doors to all who seek God or a deeper knowledge of God regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The parish has been faithful in good times and in bad. There were times when we did not have a home for our Sunday Mass and had to meet in each other’s homes. In the beginning, it was often just Fr. Joseph and I. But we didn’t give up. We continued to be faithful to the vision, knowing that God could do through us greater things than we could ask or imagine. There have also been times of great joy and celebration – but we did not use those as an excuse to coast, but continued to focus on the values and vision that we hold dear, believing it to be the mission that God has given us.

And so, here we are today, celebrating this wonderful anniversary, and rejoicing in the many great things God has done in our midst. It is my prayer that the parish may continue serving God faithfully in the coming years, decades, and centuries! Ad multos annos!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week Reflection

Our new postulant asked recently if there were any specific Augustinian traditions for Holy Week.
I am not aware of any specific Augustinian traditions for Holy Week that differ from the Roman usage. Our "parent" Order, the OSA was unique in its founding being erected directly by the Holy See in 1256. As such it is very much Roman Rite, with less diversions in its own rites unlike the Benedictines, for example.

But, I like what Lyngine pointed out regarding the why and how. As Augustinians our spirit flows from the intimate love made manifest in God's incarnation. Thus, the love of Jesus in obedience to the Father is what we focus upon. Jesus went to the cross because he loved the Father and loved us and knew that this act of total self sacrifice was necessary for our return to God, our reconciliation to God, and our return as chosen children of God.

It was love that enabled Jesus to endure all of this for US. We in turn do all, suffer all, edure all, for love of God by loving each other. This love is not a cheap sentimental love, but real love by giving to each other, epsecilaly when you feel you have nothing left to give. That is the Augustinian tradition...simple and quiet giving from the heart in especially the little things in life. How can we love God whom we do not see if we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we do see? So, think of those in your life who need love and offer your penenace and sacrifice for them, not only this week, but always.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Conversion and Vocation: It's never ending

Brothers and Sisters,

Today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Our Sunday readings ( continue on the theme from last week regarding God's calling to us to be redeemed and share in the coming of the Kingdom.

This week we hear how Nineveh was saved by Johna's obedience to God's will in going there to preach a message of repentance. The Ninevites listened, turned back to the Lord, and were saved by His mercy. Paul reminds us of how this world and the next life are not the same and for us to be on gaurd from loving this world too much and not remembering we are called to an eternity with God. Finally, Jesus continues to call his disciples together by knowing their hearts' desires.

Remember that we as religious, whether professed, oblate, or in formation, are answering God's call. First we are called to our own redemption through vigilance to prayer, penance, and integrity of heart. BE WHO YOU ARE! That is where God's call begins. Then allow God's Word to permeate you, pound your doubts and fears to sand by your living each day in your call wether in married life, single life, or celibacy. Then and only then can God's mercy effect a change in you to go out and minister as He wishes. Once you, yourself, have experienced God's transforming love, God's abundant mercy, God's radical acceptance of you, then you are ready to do His will and lead others, through intercessory prayer, example, preaching, or good works to the same journey and conclusions.

Ours is not an easy life, but it is one we live day by day. Paul's conversion was begun when he was knocked off the horse, it was completed the day he entered heaven to hug and greet his master. Our Holy Father Augustine began his conversion in Milan and completed it in the same way as Paul. We never have all the answers or should feel completely comfortable in our vocation because we are called to radical conversion EACH and EVERY day! God has placed this journey before us and He will see us through...just keep holding his hand and the hand of your brothers and sisters in community.

Yours, one in mind and heart, and yes, often confused, but ON THE WAY TO GOD with you,

Joseph Augustine+