Monthly Archives: October 2011

Prayer for the Cause of Peace: What’s Prayer?

 “As Christians”, he said, “we are convinced that prayer is the most precious contribution we can make to the cause of peace.”

It would be unfair to say that Christians for this reason gather to listen to the Word of God and to invoke the gift of peace; almost without exception all of the great faiths and moral traditions of the world, even agnostics and atheists, bless their multilated and troubled soulets, cannot denigrate believers’ fervent supplications for the sacred gift of peace, Christian, ecumenical, interfaith, spiritual, psychological, economic, and political.

But the key here is to appreciate what is meant by “prayer” and to reflect on the power of “prayer” as a special form of charitable proactivity. Think about it: What is prayer for you? Private devotion? Dialogue with the divine? Charitable works of mercy and love? Is your prayer self-centered and self-serving? Or is it compassionate outreach? How does your prayer effect a positive contribution to the work of peace? Does your prayer simply dump it all on God’s lap, and you go off to the mall to try on jeans or buy a new flat-screen for the game on Sunday? How sincere is your prayer?

His holiness Benedict XVI concluded his October 26th general audience with words relating to his pilgrimage to Assisi when at the end of the celebration of the Word in the Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI addressed the young, the sick and newlyweds. “May the example of St,. Francis of Assisi, over whose tomb I will pray tomorrow, support you, dear young people, in your daily commitment to Christ“, he said. “May it encourage you, dear sick people, always to follow the example of Jesus in your trials and suffering; and may it help you, dear newlyweds, to make your family a place of constant encounter with the love of God and of our fellows“.


Read his holiness’ homily at The Kingdom Of Christ Cannot Be Built By Force.


A Reflection on Sukkot

A Reflection on Sukkot and Healthcare Chaplaincy
Sukkot is the third and last of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals (with Passover and Shavuot).

Sometimes referred to as z’man simchateinu, the season of rejoicing, its hands-on, home-based customs make it a refreshing contrast to the dramatically solemn synagogue-based High Holy Days.

Historically, Sukkot celebrates the 40 years during which the Israelites wandered in the desert living in temporary dwellings. The holiday takes its name from these dwellings or booths, these Sukkot. It is also a harvest festival. Today, its primary observances include: dwelling in some way in a Sukkah; ritualistically waving a lulav (which is a “bouquet” that is made up of a palm branch that is embraced by willow and myrtle branches and fortified with a citron); and saying extra prayers.

Among Sukkot’s themes are four primary messages. The first two messages are about inclusiveness and being joyful. Traditionally, during Sukkot, spiritual, ancestral and, of course, living guests are welcomed. For the past decade, HCC has raised a Sukkah on the terrace of its East 62nd Street offices and made it available to staff, board members, friends and neighbors who wish to fulfill the commandment to dwell – or at least to dine – in booths during their business hours.

“Ten years ago, when we leased additional office space, access to an expansive outdoor terrace was part of the rental agreement,” recalls Chaplaincy CEO, the Rev. Dr. Walter J. Smith, S.J.  “This terrace afforded us an unparalleled opportunity to purchase and annually raise a sukkah; each year our multifaith staff collaborates in constructing and adorning it for the festival.”
“I am humbled by the way in which our HealthCare Chaplaincy community responds to my annual request for help in raising our Sukkah,” says Rabbi Dr. Bonita Taylor, HealthCare Chaplaincy’s director of Jewish studies and associate director of clinical pastoral education. “Staffers from many different faith groups
and observance levels and from throughout HCC interrupt their crowded schedules to raise the Sukkah’s external structure or to decorate its interior.”“I’ve been doing this for the past five years” says Christopher Chiu, manager of corporate and foundation giving. “I’d like to think that having someone like me, a Roman Catholic, helping to build and decorate a sukkah—and having fun doing it—sends a powerful message of multifaith tolerance, cooperation, and understanding.”

A third message is about fragility. Normally, we can pretend that our external structures can protect us from all of life’s painful encounters. These structures include our bodies that house our souls as well as our homes that house our bodies. It is traumatic when we discover, despite our best efforts, that our physical homes, whether skeletal or brick, cannot always protect us from hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, floods and the like. During Sukkot, we intentionally dwell in structures that we know can be “huffed and puffed” away. This allows us to experience feelings of gratitude for that which we think is enduring in our lives, even as we experience feelings of apprehension about the ephemeral.

Finally, a fourth message encourages us to embrace mystical facets within ourselves. One way that we do this is by “waving a lulav.”  This year, on the first day of Sukkot, we opened our Sukkah with a brief teaching and an opportunity for those present to wave the lulav in each of six directions: east, north, west, south, towards Divinity, and toward the earth, and to conclude with a private prayer. One tradition involves waving it three
times in each of these directions because in Jewish mystical tradition, the number ”3” is associated with balance, reconciliation, wholeness and holiness. Many present, most for the first time, participated in what they later said felt “spiritual and special.”

HealthCare Chaplaincy project development manager Jess Geevarghese says, “While we, the staff, come from various faith traditions, participating in the Sukkot service took me beyond our differences. The transient nature of our lives, gratitude for our bounty and participation in self-reflective rituals are links to our shared human nature. The sukkot is a powerful reminder of this.”

Later, some said that they would do it during the seven days, when they were alone. “This is one of the many ways that HealthCare Chaplaincy ‘walks its talk,’” Rabbi Taylor concluded. “I feel so blessed to facilitate it, to witness it and to be a part of it”.

Sukkot Priestly Blessing. Moses said concerning the feast of Sukkot, "On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Lev. 23:40; JPS). The Jewish people have interpreted these four species to be the etrog (citron) - yellow fruit, the lulav (palm branch), hadas (avot tree branch), and aravah (willows of the brook). They carry these with them throughout the week to their prayers in the synagogue. (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Perspective,

Thank you! at Healthcare Chaplaincy for this article.

Pope Announces Year of Faith

The Vatican Information Services has published some excerpts from his
holiness’ announcement of the Year of Faith. These excerpts contain
some meaningful passages upon which we should all reflect. Here’s the


VATICAN CITY, 16 OCT 2011 (VIS) – During Mass this morning in the Vatican Basilica, celebrated to mark the end of an international meeting on new evangelisation organised by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, Benedict XVI announced that he was calling a forthcoming “Year of Faith”.

The Year will begin on 11 October 2012, fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, and will come to an end on 24 November 2013, Feast of Christ the King. Its aim “is to give renewed energy to the Church’s mission to lead men and women out of the desert in which they so often find themselves, and towards the place of life, towards friendship with Christ Who gives us life in all its fullness”. The Year will likewise be an opportunity “to strengthen our faith in Christ and joyfully to announce Him to the men and women of our time”, the Pope said.

Commenting on this Sunday’s readings, the Holy Father explained that the mission of the Church must be considered in the light of “the theological meaning of history. Epoch-making events, the rise and fall of great powers, all lie under the supreme dominion of God. No earthly power can take His place. The theology of history is an essential aspect of the new evangelisation, because the men and women of our time, following the tragic period of the
totalitarian empires of the twentieth century, need to rediscover a global vision of the world and history
. They need a truly free and peaceful vision, the vision which Vatican Council II transmitted in its documents and which my predecessors, Servant of God Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II, illustrated with their Magisterium”.  [emphasis provided]

“In order to be effective evangelisation needs the strength of the Spirit, which enlivens the message and infuses the person who bears it with the ‘full conviction’ of which St. Paul speaks. … New evangelisers are called to be the first to walk along the Path which is Christ, in order to lead others to the beauty of the life-giving Gospel. On this Path we are never alone, but always in company; it is an experience of communion and fraternity which is offered to everyone we meet, bringing them to share in our experience of Christ and His Church. Thus, witness associated with announcement can open the hearts of those who seek the truth, helping them discover the meaning of their own lives“. [emphasis provided]

Finally the Holy Father turned his attention to the Gospel episode of the tribute to be paid to the emperor. Jesus command to “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”, he said, “is rich in anthropological significance and cannot be reduced only to the political sphere. The Church, then, does not limit herself to reminding men and women of the just distinction between the authority of Caesar and that of God, between the political and religious spheres. The mission of the Church, like that of Christ, is essentially that of speaking about God, evoking His sovereignty, calling everyone – and especially Christians who have lost their identity – of God’s rights over that which belongs to Him: our lives“.  [emphasis provided]


Vatican Informtion Service 20111017 (550)

Young People Evaluate Morals: OK vs Dumb


No less than 34% declared they did not know what makes anything morally right or wrong and some of them simply could not understand the questions on this matter.

The following is excerpted from a recent Rome Reports article: 

“A couple of recent books provide interesting insights into the current state of religion in the United States and what we can expect from those coming into adulthood.

The first, “FutureCast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World,” (Barna Books) is by George Barna, a prolific author who founded the Barna Research Group. Based on numerous surveys of public opinion, the book looks at where society is today on a range of social issues.

Three of the book’s chapters look at religious beliefs and practices. Religious self-identification has remained very stable, with 84% calling themselves Christians in 1991, compared to 85% in 2010. Nevertheless, Barna observed that many embrace the title without backing it up in practice. No less than 34% declared they did not know what makes anything morally right or wrong and some of them simply could not understand the questions on this matter.

For the others their responses were varied. Some thought morality was defined by what other people would think about someone. In varying degrees this criteria was cited by 40% of the overall group.

Others described the basis of morality as depending on whether something functionally improved people’s situations. Another determining factor for some was whether something will hurt other people.

In their conclusion to the chapter on morality the authors noted that emerging adults are poorly equipped to address the challenges of the present and the future and form a generation that has been failed when it comes to moral formation.

While caution needs to be taken in generalizing from opinion polls and surveys of small groups, the evidence in both books is nevertheless a stark reminder of the challenges facing churches and all those concerned about morality.
Get the entire article at Young People Evaluate Morals: OK vs Dumb

See our related commentary, Hubbard: Condoning the Failure Option.

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