Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for January

I can’t remember a time when I’ve gone this many days without blogging! But I’m teaching two “J-term” courses – January term courses, each of which meets for six hours a week for the four weeks of January – an undergraduate honors seminar called Heroes and Heroism at University of St. Thomas and a graduate Theology course in World Spiritualities at St. Catherine University. Suffice it to say that 12 hours of teaching and the related course preparation are taking a lot of my energy!

I’ve managed to pay enough attention to things outside of my two courses to watch Pope Francis’ first video message for the traditional papal prayer intention for the month, in which he calls on people of different faiths around the world to work together for peace and justice. The reaction to the video has been sharp and varied, with some expressing joy and admiration for the Pope’s words, and others questioning the Pope’s catholicity.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to interfaith dialogue is how to reconcile Christianity’s faith in Jesus Christ as the universal Savior with the positive meaning in God’s plan of salvation of the other religious traditions and their saving value for their adherents. To quote one commentator “How to make sense of the universal mission of Christianity for the whole world without having thereby to depreciate and undervalue the significance of other religious faiths for their adherents?”

It is not a small challenge.

Here is the video, which I plan to show to my World Spiritualities class this evening before we begin our discussion of Judaiam:

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One thought on “Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for January

  1. Susan, thank you for sharing, and may your World Spiritualities Class discussion(s) be lively and bear much fruit. . .

    “It is not a small challenge.”

    Thankfully we are not alone challenged, our brothers and sisters await our invitation – all of them, present and past.

    Before offering a verbal answer to Father Antoniy’s question of December 31, “Do you believe salvation is possible outside the Church?” I responded with an affirmative nod – followed with, “Most likely it is not possible and I may truly be delusional, though I believe Perpetua introduced me to faith and the church, in her home ‘Church’ of (Carthage) Truburbo Minus (Tebourba); her faith that is before Nicaea, before the Councils of Trent, before most of what separates one from the other in ‘Faith’ today.” The Church where the Eucharistic sacrifice proclaimed much more than a memorial and model – where Cyprian expressed, each are called by and to Christ as a single grain offered to be combined into One Body with Christ.

    In hearts, most everyone who professes a belief in God believes there is salvation outside The (their) Church – the definition of ‘The Church’ may not be as universal. . .

    “Do you believe salvation is possible outside the Church?”

    “At that moment, I felt the spiritual hearts and eyes of an indescribable many awaiting my reply.” – I felt their hearts and eyes, the hearts and souls of the Early Church, and of our brothers and sisters who continue to affirm, support and encourage our every reply – our heart’s reply that the Holy Spirit and their presence helps restrain our minds from editing. . .

    From a Christian perspective, when Jesus introduced Himself to St. Perpetua during the early days of the 3rd. Century, imagine the encounters in word and deed as she (the newest Catechumen) sought to serve her new faith family. To serve the many, including some who had previously and continued to serve her as their ‘societal station’ required – coming together in love, each brother and sister serving their faith family as Jesus’ example encouraged and ‘challenged.’

    Imagine the requests shared after their Presbyter had left, ‘Lady Perpetua I am not as learned as you, would you please reread the ‘Passage’ and help me understand the fullness of our Lord’s words?’ Are we all not travelers on a brief journey of life, offering and accepting hospitality, sustenance, fellowship, and ‘Spirit’ our faith(s) describes?

    And imagine after Perpetua forsook the security of her litter, her litter captain and her servants – pulling back and discarding the curtains (veils of privilege) to subtly and quietly introduce herself as a ‘sister’ (she to them and they to her) to the citizenry of Carthage in market, shop and encounter.

    “Following the exposition of the doctrine of transubstantiation at the fourth Lateran Council of 1215, clergy were required to ensure that the blessed sacrament was to be kept protected from irreverent access or abuse; and accordingly the area of the church used by the lay congregation was to be screened off from that used by the clergy. This distinction was enforced by the development of canon law, by which the construction and upkeep of the chancel was the responsibility of the rector, whereas the construction and upkeep of the nave was the responsibility of the parish. Barriers demarcating the chancel became increasing elaborate, but were largely swept away after both the Protestant Reformation and then the Counter-Reformation prioritized the congregation having a good view of what was happening in the chancel. – Chancel History, Wikipedia

    During Perpetua’s day, God’s children were possibly as united universally as ever. Are the ‘veils of privilege’ Perpetua pulled back some 1,000 years before the Lateran Council reintroduced them partially responsible for foundational separation of faiths and beliefs?

    The Roman Catholic faith, who leaders of privilege have professed is supported upon Scripture, tradition and by the Magisterium, may foster one of “. . . the greatest challenge to interfaith dialogue is how to reconcile Christianity’s faith in Jesus Christ as the universal Savior with the positive meaning in God’s plan of salvation of the other religious traditions and their saving value for their adherents.”

    Are we all not travelers on a journey of life, travelers on a journey of life similar to the encounters Perpetua and I experience(ed) and cherish(ed) in market, shop and business in Carthage and while accompanying my father during childhood walks about town, and continuing to this day during similar spiritual journeys together amongst our brothers and sisters?

    Father Antoniy and I share precious memories from another date common (Sunday August 2, 2009). Five and a half years before being introduced to father and my offering to donate services for his parish’s church project and after Mass (that Sunday of his wedding), I offered to help a very dear friend of mine prepare her home, the food and drink for her only daughter Jennifer’s bridal shower.

    In the kitchen later in the afternoon, while conversing at length with a close friend of the bride to be, another friend of Jennifer’s I had never before seen or met, interrupted me with a ‘touch’ on my left forearm, “Would you please show me where I can put this? (Soiled paper plate and napkin). As I stepped back to open the cabinet door we came face to face and she exclaimed, “Do you know that evil can’t harm you?”

    “What?”

    “Evil can’t harm you, there are legions of Angels (spirits) protecting you.”

    “What did you say?!!!”

    “Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways. In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty that we have for all: we are all children of God,” Pope Francis said in his message, released Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

    “At that moment, I felt the spiritual hearts and eyes of an indescribable many – “. . . all (those) children of God,” are there to watch over us, and “. . . with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians (and all who believe in God) may overcome divisions,” coming together as the ‘Family of God.’

    “Do you know that evil can’t harm you?”

    Evil can’t harm us when we are each joined one to the other as “children of God,” joined together as the ‘Family of God.’

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