Tag Archives: Catholicism

Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

By Matt Keppel

Two weekends ago, I had the immense blessing to be in Philadelphia to witness the beautiful representative of the Catholic Church that is Pope Francis. The conference that he was attending, and closing, was on the family and the life of the family within the Church. Following the World Meeting of Families, he is going to follow up his historic visit to the United States with the Synod on the Family. So, it would seem that family is significant on Francis’s list. After listening to him multiple times this weekend, I can attest to what he believes about the life of the family: love.

Just as Francis has been clear about some issues regarding families, he has been interestingly vague on others. On nearly every street corner in Philadelphia the throngs of people were confronted by men, young and old, asking us (mostly men, really) to sign a petition intended for Pope Francis that he might make a definitive statement about marriage being between a man and a woman. And yet, at the World Meeting of Families what did he tell us about families? That they are called to love the members within them; children are valuable to us because they are our future; our grandparents are our familial memory; and the love of the family should be lived out to bring love and joy to our communities. Many of us standing there were shocked. Francis finished his Saturday evening address without addressing what so many people had hoped he would: same-sex unions. Continue reading Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond


God of Wonders

I don’t know about you, but I love learning. It’s truly one of my favorite things in the world. In fact, one of the reasons I’m a

Milky Way Galaxy -www.karlremarks.com-

teacher is, as I told my friend, John, last week, because I’m in the business of blowing minds. More often than not, I spend my free time cruising the internet for interesting and mostly useless bits of knowledge. Every once-in-awhile, though, I come across something absolutely astounding, a new piece of knowledge about the universe around me that completely shatters the constructs I had previously believed to be true.

Most often, I find that I am blown away by discoveries in astronomy, physics, or engineering. Whether it’s because I’ve spent some time studying these fields, they’re pet interests of mine, that they are just plain awesome, or all of the above it does not really matter: there is something inherently interesting in learning something that was previously never known, or sometimes never even considered to be real. Those are the most amazing discoveries: instances that seem impossible, but clearly exist, sometimes occurring more often than we realized.

I recently came across an article on the website IFLS.com that was as Earth-shattering as it was theologically revolutionary. The article was about a particular region of the Dominican Republic where some boys do not have a penis or testes until they reach puberty. Yes, that is correct. Please re-read it if you have to. BECAUSE IT’S MIND BLOWING. Don’t we know all that there is to know about the human body? How can the human body still have such amazing mysteries left for us to discover? Regardless, I think it’s a good reminder. Something that we believed to be so concrete and well-researched still has mystery. So it is with God.

I would be the first to admit that I am not certain what to make of people who say that they are transgender or the like. In all honesty, I also believe in our call by Christ to be generous and loving to all people, especially those in greatest need (whatever that may be). However, I wish there were simple answers to these complex questions that face us today. The Bible says nothing about transgendered people; it doesn’t have a lot of answers when it comes to homosexuality (fornication isn’t what you think it means… it’s really ambiguous); and it says a whole lot about love, trust, and “be not afraid.”  I am a faith-filled person who relies on the certainties of science and research to help guide my faith in God. It seems like this crazy story about boys who were raised girls until they reached puberty and grew penises has something important to say about our world: it is a mystery.

One of the most important Truths of our Catholic faith is that God is the Divine Mystery. We often forget that. We like to put God and our faith in a little box, slap a label on it that says “Catholic” or “Christian” or “Bob” or “Debby” or “Pat.” Then, when something comes around that challenges what we believe to be true, we often shut it out instead of opening to the possibility that it is a part of the infinite mystery we call our God. Mystery doesn’t fit in a box. It cannot be tamed, nor should we want to tame it. That’s the beauty in our faith. We are not supposed to tame our God of Wonders, only to grow in relationship with the Father through the person of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Today, we have been witnesses of a historic event. For the first time in history, a Pope has visited the United States Congress. In the joint congressional session, Pope Francis spoke on a plethora of topics that concern the Catholic Church. From poverty and immigration to capitalism and climate change, the Pontiff captivated his audience of politicians from the moment his presence was announced.

For those interested, and I would highly suggest to do so, NPR has a play-by-play of the speech. We also have the transcript of Pope Francis’s speech to read at your leisure.


The Catholic Church’s Shifting Power

Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV at Canossa Castle seeking forgiveness from                     Pope Gregory VII.

The Catholic Church, in all of its luminous and lurid history, has become notorious for its inability to “get with the times.” It is the general course of action for the Church that she moves at her own pace: intentional wisdom rather than rash choices. More often than not, wisdom prevails. Yet, the path to wisdom is one crafted over many years. The mere existence of the Catholic faith, its survival over the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and the British Empire has proven that slow wisdom is significant, even though it may be frustrating, even maddening. Yesterday (as much of Pope Francis’s papacy has been), was the fruits of some of that maddeningly slow wisdom.

In the motu proprios released today, the Vatican has simplified the annulment process for marriages. An experience that has been often characterized as painful and drawn out, Francis has simplified as much of the process as possible by keeping it within the local diocese in order to expedite the annulment ruling. It may seem like this is simply something to allow divorces more readily available, but it is so much more than that. These rulings allow for justice and mercy to be served as quickly as possible.

Along with Pope Francis’s edict on the forgiveness of abortions, the motu proprios communicate almost as much about
theology as they do the movement of politics within the Church. It seems, based upon these, other speeches, and letters by the current Pontiff, that Francis is calling for a Church more focused on its people, those who are on the ground-level of the faith. In that, the dioceses are becoming more autonomous in decisions that directly relate to their people. Priests and bishops are being encouraged to minister to the needs of their people. It has been Francis’s entire papacy to bring forth a renewed effort by the clergy to take their rightful place as the servants of those in greatest need.

In a Church that often still runs its business on antiquated operations, we are witnessing real change. We are slowly leaving some of the unnecessary, medieval trappings of a highly centralized Vatican, while still maintaining the role and authority of the magisterium. Thankfully though, we don’t have to crawl to the Vatican in order to receive mercy and forgiveness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walk_to_Canossa). Through the patient wisdom of the Church and the example of Pope Francis, the needs of the faithful are being attended to in new and dynamic ways.

Refugees Welcomed into Germany

It’s not often that the news gets to report genuine good humanitarian efforts around the world. However, with the massive amount of  refugees streaming out of the Middle East and North Africa, Germany and Austria have opened their gates to welcome people in the greatest of need. Let us all keep these people in our prayers and continue to pray for more good will like this across the world.