“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent,
and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.”
-A Bronx Tale
I cannot count the times in my life where I have felt lesser in the spiritual sphere because someone “outshined” me. I often thought the Church was so boring, homogenous. I felt suppressed, and like I was being asked to be someone I just was not. Recently, I had a shaky experience with a church-affiliated organization, where I felt completely displaced, unheard and unappreciated. I even contemplated my course of study. Having just returned from 3 months abroad, away from everything familiar and with an abundance of solitude, this situation struck a raw nerve. Where am I going? What is God calling me to? And how much of what is being said and done is a reflection of my identity and place in the Church and how much is pure politics or misunderstanding?
Theology is my passion, and the Church is something I believe in firmly. I hope to one day build a career around bringing my skills and ideas to this institution. But I was doubting myself. I knew that all of this could not be a matter of my inadequacy in the eyes of God. So why did I feel like someone took a garden hose to the fire burning inside me? Luckily, it only took a sit-down with one of my most respected professors to kick-start me again. He reminded me of my skills, talents, and charisms, and that they differ from person to person; and mine are certainly no mistake.
These every day scenarios can chase some of the most passionate youth away from the areas they may be called to enhance or reform. The New Evangelization calls us to recognize the need for every type of person. It’s what makes us communal. How is evangelization, family life, or any other cosmopolitan activity possible with only one personality type allowed? It isn’t. Christifideles Laici speaks powerfully to this, clarifying that each and every forte and ability is valued:
“They are not called to abandon the position that they have in the world. Baptism does not take them from the world at all…He entrusts a vocation to them that properly concerns their situation in the world.”
For some reason, so many of us are scared that what God calls us to must be the most gruesome and displeasing situation. I find myself constantly asking God “PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME TO A, B, OR C!” the kicker; of course, being that God isn’t out to make my life miserable… I’m called to act in accordance with the talents and abilities I have.
So, if God calls us to use our skills and capacities to better and bring to order the world, what happens when institutions or governments begin to inhibit this? Pope Benedict stood before Parliament and defended our right as people of faith to keep our faith alive in our careers and all decisions following. As head of the Roman Catholic Church, one would assume that perhaps he wants to make sure "his own" are being heard, but it seems he contends that anyone with a well-formed conscience is inherently free and bound to follow it. We expect that our leaders will lead us toward good will and prosperity. Working toward any noble cause is not easy. However, if we allow God into our lives solely for our personal missions and hardships, why are we not surprised that we do not receive the same guidance and grace outside? We must seek it. And to seek it, there must be freedom, and even encouragement, to do so. What better time to let God back in? We may be pleasantly surprised by the Spirit’s ability to emerge through the cracks of brokenness, and allow us a deeper-rooted ethical cause.
 Himes, Michael J. Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations about God, Relationships, and Service. New York: Paulist, 1995. p. 47
Angela Chiappetta is the Program Development Associate for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
My name is Alex, and I’m a pro-life Catholic. Am I simply pro-life because I am a Catholic? That is a question that I have pondered over these last few days as our nation commemorates the 39th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. My conclusion is that my Catholic faith informs my conscience (as it does on issues of morality), but that I believe that I would still be pro-life if I were an atheist or agnostic.
In his homily at last night’s Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas spoke to a swelling crowd of bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and laity:
“The sad anniversary recalled each year on January 22 has become an invitation to you, one that calls for prayer and vigil, marching and testifying, and a joyous love for human life that is unable to be defeated.”
The “joyous love for human life” that Cardinal DiNardo spoke of echoes the pleas of hundreds of thousands of Americans who march, walk, and pray today for an end of legalized abortion in the United States.
I suppose that my views on the pro-life movement (abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, and all other forms of ending human life prematurely) are grounded in my belief in the Ten Commandments (“You shall not kill”) and the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”). I am pro-life because I am Catholic and American. The Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence really tap into human nature because they both capture something transcendent and universal, moving beyond the boundaries of nations, beyond the boundaries of self and the familiar. Lawmakers will not protect an unborn child, but are quick to outlaw euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
But how does the abortion issue relate to the New Evangelization? In Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper establishing the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the Holy Father explains the mission of the New Evangelization: “Although this task directly concerns the Church’s way of relating ad extra, it nevertheless presupposes first of all a constant interior renewal, a continuous passing, so to speak, from evangelized to evangelizing.” The task of evangelization is directed both ad extra (to the world) and ad intra (to the Church). The Church’s renewed mission is to proclaim the same gospel message of Jesus Christ in the modern world.
Legalized abortion is certainly one of those issues that all people, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, need evangelization in order to continue a conversion of heart and conscience. In the same decree, Pope Benedict XVI writes that “there has been a troubling loss of the sense of the sacred, which has even called into question foundations once deemed unshakeable such as … a common understanding of basic human experiences: i.e., birth, death, life in a family, and reference to a natural moral law.”
In an attempt to reclaim the sacred, let us join today in prayer for the unborn. May we continue to pray for the evangelization and re-evangelization of all people, so that all people, born and unborn, can enjoy life to the fullest.
Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.
A major contention that many people – both young and old – have with the Church is that it is an institution of “Thou Shalt Nots” and other moral imperatives that have little or no relevance in the modern world. In essence, the Church is seen as little more than an outdated social services agency, or even worse, a dismal and ahistorical museum perpetuating a false sense of reality. This emerging perception of the Church parallels a larger cultural shift from the acceptance of objective truth toward a secular relativism.
In a recent address to a group of U.S. bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit, Pope Benedict XVI proposed that the Church’s response to this “eroded” perception of reality is one of the greatest “spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.” Because of the Catholic Apostolate Center’s commitment to being an instrument of the new evangelization, this bears much significance on the direction of our work. But what impact does – or should – this emerging situation have on our daily lives?
In the words of the Holy Father, “the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering”. As Catholics, we are called to uphold the perceptive vision of reality that has been gifted to us by the Holy Spirit through Divine Revelation. It is only through upholding this vision that we can ever hope to accurately understand our place in the world around us and “the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God.”
As Catholics, we are beneficiaries of an astonishing intellectual legacy that was developed over the course of two millennia by scholars who examined these mysteries through the complimentary lenses of faith and reason. Contrary to popular opinion, the Church’s moral teaching is not merely a hodge-podge of archaic prohibitions, but a doctrine that is congruent with the logical nature of reality and informed by Divine Revelation. As the Pope explained in his address, the moral teaching of the Church “is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a ‘language’ which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.”
If we are to succeed in being apostles of the New Evangelization, then one of our most critical objectives should be to proclaim the beauty, consistency, and relevance of the Church’s moral teaching, without which we would be left with an incomplete view of our own humanity. Informed by this teaching, it is also important that we serve as prophets in the public sphere of these truths. As Pope Benedict XVI emphasized, “it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” Even more pertinent to the work of the Catholic Apostolate Center, the Holy Father went on to say that “the preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.”
Blessed John XXIII was once quoted as saying the following: “We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” The New Evangelization is not concerned with re-presenting a forgotten memory from the past, but with re-proposing the living and eternal truth of Jesus Christ that continues to sustain His Church. The Church’s moral teaching is just one part of this truth, but as the Holy Father makes clear, it is an essential part to humanity’s self-understanding.
Brett Garland is the Program Development Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Audio of the Holy Father’s address available here.
CNS Report about the Holy Father's address.
The call to holiness and the mission presented to the Church from Jesus Christ is certainly a challenging one. The fact that God created us with the ability to freely choose not only between right and wrong but between varied truths allows the members of Christ’s body, the Church, to live out the freedom given by God by our birth and baptism. The Catechism defines freedom as “the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility ... Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (1731). The ‘mission,’ so to speak, of Catholics in this day and age is to live the Gospel message and to promote a New Evangelization.
This does not mean that everyone is called to any particular vocation. However, everyone is called to a vocation. It is up to the individual, because of their freedom, to choose and discern where they are being called by God and for what purpose. Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation, eloquently puts it:
Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and sons of God. This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity.
Concrete personal reflection has never come easy for me, and there is a reason that people tend to hide their emotions. Reflecting on the meaning of vocation and what God is calling me to do conjures up memories of high school retreats of discovering where God is found in daily life. While structured experiences of faith exploration and formation are important in shaping the broad spectrum of faith, I have learned that is not all of what my faith encompasses.
At the very first meeting with my spiritual director, he asked, “Who is Alex?” I began to spew answers such as student, friend, brother, and the like. What I wanted to avoid was the internal reflection on the self because I didn’t want to have to address the underlying feelings regarding vocation and personal identity. If we are indeed called to shape our own identity, then we very often have a choice. This could be a choice between choosing the truth over a falsehood or even between particular vocations. In discernment, it is my task to look forward, to look to the future. If I dwell on the things of the past, I will never adequately be able to say that I have done what God is calling me to do, whatever it may be. It is the Christian’s responsibility, my responsibility, to discern this vocation, whatever it may be, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If we must seek the Creator “spontaneously,” as the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes puts it, on their own accord and out of impulse, then it becomes clear that the mission of the baptized Christian is to seek God always and in all things. The Italian priest Saint Vincent Pallotti, patron of the Catholic Apostolate Center, wrote, “Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things, and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will always find God.” I have often found consolation in this prayer of Saint Vincent. It serves as a reminder to attune my heart and mind to God, in all things and at all times. Out of this freedom of choice and seeking comes a responsibility to act out of instinct and to lead others closer to Jesus Christ by first seeking the very God who created us.
Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.