April 12, 2014

Archbishop Aquila's Call for Prayer and Action

An Open Letter from Archbishop Aquila:

Open Letter to Catholics in Northern Colorado
SB175: Pray and Act!

To all people of goodwill in Colorado:

I am writing to you today with a very important request. Weekends are busy for all of us, but I am asking you, as a believer in the sanctity of human life, to pray for 10 minutes and take one of the actions that I will mention at the conclusion of this letter.

If you haven’t yet heard, there is a very troubling bill being debated in the Colorado State Senate next week. Senate Bill 175, touted as the “Reproductive Health Freedom Act,” passed on a party line vote in committee this past Thursday. I am grateful to every person who showed up to oppose the radical bill.

This over-reaching piece of legislation would essentially shut down any attempt to pass life-affirming legislation in Colorado ever again. More than that, it enshrines the “right to abortion” into Colorado law. It’s being praised by anti-life organizations such as NARAL and ThinkProgress as “the first of its kind” in the country and “ambitious.”  It enshrines the culture of death into law and ignores science.

This bill would prevent lawmakers from enacting laws such as ultrasound requirements, which we all know—particularly from the work of the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative here in Colorado—have done so much to give mothers vital information about their pregnancy, and thus save countless children from imminent death.

It prevents common sense regulations like waiting periods, restrictions on abortion pills (particularly for minors), and parental notification policies. Advocates of this bill seek the absolute “right to abortion” for girls as young as 10 or 11 without a parent’s knowledge, guidance or advice. Parents are seen as unfit in the moral guidance of their children.

Pope Francis affirmed on April 11, support for parents to decide their children’s moral and religious education, while he rejected “any kind of educational experimentation with children.”

He further stated, “The horrors of the manipulation of education that we experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared; they have retained a current relevance under various guises and proposals and, with the pretense of modernity, push children and young people to walk on the dictatorial path of ‘only one form of thought.’”

This bill would protect the “only one form of thought” that Pope Francis warns against and undermine the freedom of one’s conscience to promote the dignity of human life and the unborn child.

Finally, this bill would eliminate abortion clinic health code regulations, which pro-abortion advocates label as “burdensome.” Remember Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia, and the horrific images and stories of women nearly dying on the abortionist’s table? That is what an unregulated abortion clinic looks like! This bill is not good for the women and girls of Colorado!

I am prayerfully asking every person of good will to spend 10 minutes this weekend in prayer. Plead to Our Lord for His intercession on behalf of life in Colorado. Also, pray for our politicians on both sides of this issue, particularly for those who work tirelessly and often without recognition to promote life-affirming legislation in our State Capitol. Pray for the conversion of the heart and mind of those who support such irrational, unscientific, and a denial of conscience legislation.

But don’t stop there. As a conclusion of your prayer, ask Our Lord what action he wants from you. You are called to be a leaven for good and for life in society. 

Here are some ideas of concrete actions you can take this weekend.

Contact your Senator. It would be a beautiful testimony on the part of the people of Colorado who support life if each senator in Colorado would wake up on Monday morning with hundreds of emails asking them to oppose SB175.

Please contact the Colorado Catholic Conference to learn more about this bill or to get contact information for your Senator. Call 303-894-8808 or visit their website: www.cocatholicconference.org.

Contact the media. Call your newspaper, your television station and your radio station. Ask them to cover this bill. Let them know that they are letting down the people of Colorado by allowing this bill to pass without a true public debate!

Spread the word. If you have a Blog, or are active on Facebook, Twitter or one of the other social networks, spread the word! Invite others who may not have received this letter to pray and act!

Be people of hope! Many of you have lost faith in politics, but remember that attitude is not of God and is of the evil one. The devil confuses people and discourages them.  Pope Francis in his April 11 daily homily reminded us, “The devil is here…even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Christians are a people of hope! No action taken in defense of life is meaningless, particularly if it comes from a place of prayer and the Gospel.

I leave you with some thoughts on the importance of Christian witness in our times. Remember that Vatican II called every Catholic to serve as leaven in society and “work for the sanctification of the world from within.”

“Since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs,” the document “Lumen Gentium” states, “it is their [the laity’s] special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may … continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer” (LG, 31).

My brother bishops and I have sent a joint letter to all Colorado Senators, now I ask you all to do your part to sanctify society. Together we can make a stand for life here in Colorado!

May God bless each one of you abundantly!

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

April 5, 2014

The Spiritual Liberty of Holy Obedience

Saint Hildegard von Bingen contemplated the origin of evil in terms of disobedience.  Satan believed he could begin what he wished because he presumed he could finish what he had begun.  He invented his own schemes and programs against the plan of God because he did not believe he needed the Lord for his existence.   Because he was not open to God's will, Satan is entrapped in a lower existence, imprisoned in currents of unredeemable chaos below this world.  Hildegard sees how the Ancient Adversary is at work to lure and coerce into this same pit all those whose lives he invades and touches.

Obedience begins with the realization that one cannot bring into completion the work God has begun.   The ambiguity surrounding this life is beyond human capacity to understand or master, and left to ourselves, we are always at risk of being mastered by it.  Following our own whims is not enough because even the whims of the heart are subject to this confusion.  Our dignity, our integrity, our existence require firm ground on which to stand, or they all fall.  This understanding, this saving truth is found somewhere beyond our natural capacities, from Someone above us, who comes down to us, who calls to us and who waits for us to welcome Him.

Rather than allowing oneself to be consumed with the confusion of doing what one wishes, we only begin to redeem the ambiguity of life by searching out the most appropriate way of serving the Lord who reveals Himself to us.  He does not coerce or manipulate or threaten in anger.  He humbly invites. He gently warns and patiently corrects.  He thoughtfully questions.  He appeals to our holy freedom because our free decisions to love delight Him more than anything else.

He who yearns for the free response of our humanity works through human freedom, inviting his friends to help us hear His voice.  He who is Love Himself reveals Himself through those whom He has entrusted with preaching the Gospel, teaching sacred doctrine, and directing us with His authority.  Ministers of the Gospel, spouses and parents, missionaries, catechists, and so many others share in this great work.  Through these frail human instruments, His divine power is manifest.  If we persevere in trusting Him to show us Himself through them, our life becomes the very prayer He taught us to say: On Earth as it is in Heaven.

To be obedient in this sense is to learn to listen, to hear the voice of God resound in our hearts and to act on it.   Obedience here is a matter of being vulnerable to the mind of God revealed on the tongues of men and women, allowing His mind to call into question one's own mind on things through their words.  The paradox of this obedience to what God reveals through frail human instruments here below is that the Word of the Father who is from above lifts up those who cling to Him into divine freedom.  This spiritual liberty of holy obedience delights in an unvanquished glory that rules over all the ambiguity and confusion in this world and below it.  Even when such love is subject to every kind of trial and hardship, it is subject only to God.

March 16, 2014

Faith Simplifies Prayer

Faith simplifies us, in the way we live, and even in our prayer.   During Lent, elaborate meditations involving our imagination, composition of place and attending to the movements of our hearts can all be helpful.  One should use these as long as one draws good fruit.  It can also be helpful to remember the beautiful ways that the Lord has visited us in the past whether in something that happened in prayer or in something that happened as a result of it - as long as we do so to thank Him and not out of some nostalgic impulse to live in the past.

We should, however, be aware of doctrine of teachers like Saint John of the Cross: the more we exercise our love and faith in prayer, the simpler our exercises become.  If we try to hold onto methods because we want to reproduce an experience, we have introduced a complexity into our prayer that can be an obstacle to the new things the Lord yearns to do in our lives.  So we surrender our prayer to what the Lord wants and we allow Him to draw us, even when sometimes He leads us into an unfamiliar darkness, the kind of prayer we do not understand and that does not seem to offer the same consolation we were once accustomed to.

This truth about prayer is echoed in the way we should live our Christian life - out of devotion to Christ and out of an effort to imitate Him in everything.  Since Christ lived to do the will of the Father, we should examine what we own and how we live.  If there is in our lives something (like a possession, a relationship or a habit) not purely for the glory of God, then we should renounce it.  Otherwise, clutching after things that have little to do with the Lord, our hands are not free to welcome Him and receive his gifts.  Here too possessions that were fine to acquire and own at one point in our journey of faith may now be an obstacle to the glory of God unfolding in our hearts - so we must give it to someone who needs it, or else sell it and give the money to those in need.

God who is Love is simple and when His presence is welcomed, He simplifies the soul, and the simpler our souls the more room there is for His love.  What we own visibly and how we conduct ourselves in this world below should mirror this invisible, spiritual reality from above.  Divine simplicity should inform human life, here and now.  This way, as we receive the love of God, we receive it not only in our good intentions and vague hopes, but also in the nitty gritty of the present moment, the complex challenges of the concrete circumstances of our life.

This kind of true devotion is a spiritual gift from above that can only be welcomed in grateful simplicity in the ambiguities and difficulties of this life.  It is sought and accepted only after arduous efforts at renunciation and perseverance.  At the same time, such devotion is not a personal accomplishment or the outcome of our own discipline in spiritual exercises.  Prayer is not reducible to hoped for outcomes.  Prayer is in the logic of a gift, a friendship, a love, and before the mystery of love, the more simply we open our hands in trust, the more the Lord can give.

March 10, 2014

The Lenten Observance

My theory about Lent is that this observance is not so much a time for taking up impressive spiritual exercises in order to abandon them as soon as the Lenten Observance is over.  It is even less about getting proper exercise, giving up chocolate, and losing weight - even pagans do more than this.  Instead, Lent is about restoring the devotion to the Lord we ought to have all year round. 

The Lord has given Himself to us completely, and Lent is remembering this exquisite gift and pondering the return we ought to make with the whole of our lives.   How can we, in the face of His excessive love for us, do anything other than renounce ourselves, take up our Cross and follow in the footsteps of our Crucified God?  Yet there is a resistance in our hearts, a lack of gratitude, something deep inside that is repulsed by the goodness of the Lord.  

Why do we fall out of the beatitude that Christ proclaims the sorrowing know?  The world is filled with all kinds of challenges and trials.  Things happen in life that test us and even discourage us.   We also do things that cast a shadow over the discipline of the Christian life we ought to observe.   

In the midst of this discouragement, Christ is walking along side of us -- He never abandons those He loves.  As He walks with us, He asks us questions.  He is concerned about our direction and about the heaviness in our hearts. Lent is a time to listen to His questions.  

This can mean to read and to re-read the Gospels.  Such a lectio divina involves concentrating on passages with all the force of our mind while attending to the presence of the Lord with all the love of our hearts.    

Really listening to the Lord involves real fasting - from food to the point that we really feel hungry, to the point that we are in touch with our own hunger and thirst for justice.  

Listening to the Lord's questions can also mean going to daily Mass, taking time to ponder the readings, devoutly lifting up our hearts and entering with our lives into His great prayer before the Father.  

Listening means going out and finding my neighbors in their need and loneliness and making sure that they feel loved (it is never enough to just tell them so - love needs to be felt).  When we let ourselves be inconvenienced by those who most need us (true love is never convenient or easy), Christ speaks through them into our own poverty with a beautiful eloquence.  

Such listening can also mean entering into a deeper silence, one which is vulnerable to wonder and awe, and inclines one's whole being to adoration - it culminates in compunction and awareness of one's own need for mercy. 

The works of mercy, the fasting and the prayers that we take up for these Forty Days are meant to help us face a spiritual sluggishness that constantly creeps up in our lives to weigh us down.   These spiritual exercises of love help us recognize the Face of Christ who gazes on us in love. When we welcome His words, our hearts burn with the holy sorrow and secret joy of repentance.   In his eyes, we find the gift of tears which is a beatitude, the hope that lives unvanquished.

February 18, 2014

A Madonna House Staff Member Remembers Lucille

(claire is the French word for clear, light. bright)

God made a mountain in fire and might
High above the canyon, with great delight
He set there a green meadow, prepared a holy place
From the start of time, a new chapter of grace.

The Lord waited and pondered through ages long
For someone with a will so united and strong
To work and beg, build a solid house of prayer
Upon His mountain, to stand still with Him there.

When God brought Lucille into this world
He must have known that light would twirl
Around her soul, His fuel of light
Nourishing her life with music bright.

You Lord, guided her youth, a jealous lover
Within her heart, a balm would cover
Lucille’s eyes and mind were guided by truth
As she grew and matured, she needed no proof.

So God brought our ‘Lu’ north to Combermere
She fell in love with the Gospel and Little Mandate clear
For a time she absorbed and lived all that she could
Then Colorado called, to the Rockie’s high, fragrant woods.

Lucille crossed the country setting roots in dry mountains
She knew that the Lord was her clear, living fountain
He brought her to live and to die on this site
With God she wrestled for souls, a long, holy fight.

Our Lady of Tenderness, her daily companion
In Mary’s hands did she strive to always abandon
Year by year she opened her wounded heart to all
So each person who came could hear and answer His call.

Her tools, the Word and silence, prayer and listening
She insisted “Go to God! , His holy Spirit glistening
A spiritual mother at service for rich and poor souls
We’ll not forget your deep faith, and heaven’s high goal.

When finally God called your name one day Lucille Claire
You were with Him on the mountain, a eucharistic prayer
And there your body shall always rest and remain
Until the Resurrection comes, in Christ’s Holy Name.

We will then see the throng, the great living host
Of men and women and children, that you loved the most
priests and nuns, laborers and students tous extraordinaire
You welcomed them all to the clear mountain air.

Your prayer does not cease, a loving intercessor on high
We believe God will use you, in His work you will strive
The Church has great need of heaven and earth’s living witness
As the Mountain waits for another – to honor your greatness.

Lucille Claire, our true friend, Mother, helper and guide
We will miss you, we love you, in God’s mercy abide
Help strengthen our faith and our hands for the Kingdom
Of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Trinity, one God, come!


Scott Eagan
February 1, 2014

Be hidden – be a light to your neighbor’s feet.

Go without fears into the depth of men’s hearts … I shall be your rest.

 from The Little Mandate
Catherine Doherty
Madonna House