Catechism

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

This past October was the 25th Anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, commissioned by Pope St. John Paul II and the Bishops at the 1985 Synod. At the time, few people thought they would live to see its completion, but on October 11, 1992, it was officially promulgated by Pope John Paul II.

Many were expecting a Q & A format, much like the Baltimore Catechism. Instead the Catechism was modeled on the Catechism of the Council of Trent. The Catechism’s four parts reflect the four pillars of Christian initiation: the “Profession of Faith” (the Creed); the “Celebration of the Christian Mystery” (the Sacraments); “Life in Christ” (Christian Morality); and “Christian Prayer.”

Each of these four parts is then subdivided. Part One begins with a reflection on divine revelation and our response to it before examining the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed, the baptismal creed of the ancient Roman Church. Part Two is structured around the seven sacraments. Part Three begins with the Beatitudes and our vocation to blessedness, or happiness, which sets the framework for the exposition of the Ten Commandments. Part Four begins with a meditation on Jesus and the Samaritan woman, explaining the Lord’s “thirst” for souls as the beginning of prayer, before illustrating Christian prayer through the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

Parts One and Two of the Catechism illuminate God’s action in seeking us out. The Catechism’s very first section speaks of the divine invitation to communion, and the sacraments are described at the beginning of Part Two as the extension of Christ’s earthly life in us. Parts Three and Four then outline our response to God’s action through the moral life and prayer. Part Four speaks forcefully of “the battle of prayer,” the fight “against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God.”

The Catechism subsequently has been adapted for different audiences. The U.S. Bishops have issued a version for adults and more recently the YouCat version for young people. All in all, the Catechism has been instrumental in our times in clearing up confusion about Church teaching and providing a solid foundation for our catechetical programs for our Schools, Religious Education Programs, RCIA and Seminary formation.

Pope Francis on the anniversary said this: “For this reason, our Catechism unfolds in the light of love, as an experience of knowledge, trust, and abandonment to the mystery. In explaining its structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church borrows a phrase from the Roman Catechism and proposes it as the key to its reading and application: “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No.25).”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a profound exposition of Christian belief and Church teaching. Parts of that teaching are challenging and difficult, no doubt. But as Pope Francis rightly points out, when we divorce Christian doctrine from love, namely the love of Jesus Christ, it often becomes unintelligible.

 

I hope that every one of you has a Catechism in their home and that you take time to read it and reflect on its words. Pope St. John Paul II left us a great legacy and perhaps none better that the Catechism. On this Silver Jubilee, take time to treasure that gift.

 

Love,

Fr. John B.

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International Norms?

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

One of the arguments that’s made in favor of abolishing the use of capital punishment in the US is that we as a country are not in sync with international norms. The larger international consensus has rejected the use of execution which means the US is in company with those countries that still use it: China, Iran, Singapore, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and a few other despotic regimes.

However, for some reason, this logic is not extended to abortion. International norms limit abortion to the first 20weeks of gestation. At twenty weeks, a fetus is considered viable outside the womb. But the US allows elective abortions up to the moment of birth, not in line with the international consensus. This puts the US in company with China, North Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada. Why doesn’t the US follow the international consensus and join the developed world in rejecting abortion past twenty weeks?

Another argument often used in the anti-capital punishment debate, is that executions in general and especially those that take longer than anticipated inflict intense pain and therefore amount to cruel and unusual punishment. But the same people who make that argument also argued against the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. That law would have restricted abortion to no more than 22 weeks as scientific evidence demonstrates that a child in the womb, recoils from the abortionist instruments. Somehow, they argue, that tearing apart a child in the womb, limb by limb doesn’t constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

All this is to say that the supporters of abortion reject logic and reason in favor of pure ideology. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to argue against abortion. Sooner or later, the facts will prevail. Just as China found out that their one child policy wildly distorted the population distribution of men and women, the pro-abortion supporters will eventually have to face facts.

So, we will just keep making the case for Life. The bad news is that we have been at it for 45 years now. But the good news is that we are still at it 45 years later! We have not given up, given in or been silenced.

This month we will observe the 45th anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision to allow abortion on demand. All over the country, especially in Washington D.C., pro-lifers will march, witness and demand justice for the unborn.

Our local March will occur on Saturday, January 20. The March begins at 11:30 AM at Cesar Chavez Memorial Plaza (2nd Ave. & Washington). Rally at Wesley Bolin Memorial Park from 12:30-2:00 PM. Visit http://www.azliferally.org for additional details.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person – of every human person. (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in 2008)

Thanks to all of you for not growing weary and not resting in this most important of all civil rights battles.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS Attached to this Bulletin is the envelope for our annual Sanctity of Life Collection. We’ve moved it from October to January. Your support enables our Parish and our Diocese to continue to promote the Sanctity of all Human Life.

School Choice?

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

It looks like we really are living just this side of the gates of hell: “Army and Homeland Security prepping teachers for the gunman at the door”, so reads a recent headline. Apparently, the US Army and the Department of Homeland Security have created a computer based simulator that trains teachers on how to best react in an active-shooter situation. Many will respond: good we need to do all we can to keep our children and our schools safe. Pretty much the same as when airport security and the TSA were implemented. It’s just a way of life now. But does it have to be this way?

Not to wax nostalgic, but it was not that long ago when none of this would have entered our minds. Our whole way of life has changed and not for the better. Why do we have to accept that this is just the way it is? What changed?

After 9/11 my fear was that unless we acted swiftly and decisively we would become like Israel, facing daily the threat of terrorism. And so, it has happened. Sadly, we just became used to it and altered our lives to deal with the inconvenience and intrusion of terror and violence. It won’t end until the consequences are unbearable. And so, as a Pastor of a Parish with a School, I will continue to make sure that the necessary precautions are in place. It’s not the world I want our children to get used to or to grow up in. Nor is it what I want my teachers and staff to have to deal with.

But the good news is that it is not all bad news for parents of school age children. The recently passed Tax Bill offers some help to parents who send their children to private or religious schools. The 529 Savings Accounts, that many parents and grandparents use to save money to pay for college tuition can now be used to pay for tuition in grades K-12 and not incur any federal tax liability (up to $10,000 a year).

The 529 Savings Accounts are run by the states and Arizona has a few different versions that allow parents to withdrawal funds tax free each year for tuition and tuition related costs (computers) as well as claim a tax deduction for contributions to the plan. (Visit http://www.az529.gov for more detailed information).  Additionally, a parent can open an account while the child is in utero. So, by the time the child is six years old you could have funds available to help pay for tuition beginning in kindergarten. I would urge parents to speak to their financial institutions or advisors for more details.

For us in Arizona this is another way to help to parents who exercise their right to choose the educational environment for their children. In addition to the AZ Tuition Tax Credit that any tax payer can donate to and make available for tuition assistance, including the Catholic Education Arizona Program that we operate. This new change in tax law will help lessen the burden of tuition costs for K-12th grade students.

And just a reminder that you can donate to Catholic Education Arizona or any of the other Tuition Organizations in the state by April 15 and claim the credit for the 2017 tax year. It’s easy and cost free. If you need more information just contact the school or Parish office or visit http://www.catholiceducationarizona.org.

With the advent of school choice, things have changed that allow parents to have a wider choice of educational environments for their children. That benefits everyone but especially our children. What we have yet to do, is put the same energy and determination in changing the physical environment so that threats of violence in our society and our school are greatly diminished.

When that happens our teachers and principals can focus their attention on student learning, curriculum, and teacher development that does not include how to deal with an active shooter situation, God forbid.

We can make that happen if we have the willingness. That’s real school choice.

Love,

Fr. John B.

2019

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Well, despite the media hype over the Trump-acalypse and since we are not all speaking Russian, the world in 2017 didn’t end. So it looks like we are going to have to do it all over again! All 525,600 minutes, each of the 8,760 hours, all 52 weeks of all 12 months of 2018. So better to know what we are getting ourselves into:

 

Know, dear brothers and sisters, that as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ,so by leave of God’s mercy, we announce to you also the joy of His Resurrection, who is our Savior.

 

On the fourteenth day of February will fall Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of

the fast of the most sacred Lenten season.

 

On the first day of April, we will celebrate with joy Easter Day,

the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

On the tenth (thirteenth in AZ) day of May will be the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

On the twentieth day of May, the feast of Pentecost.

 

On the third day of June, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

 

 

Some dates of local significance:

 

21 April –  our Parish Festival

21 May – yours truly will celebrate 30yrs of priesting

16 July –  our Patronal Feast Day

 

If you live by the Rule of One (one hour of prayer/week, one hour of service/week and the first hour of wages to God each week), then for the year that was, you should have prayed at least for 52 hours or 3,120 minutes in 2017. You should have rung up 52 hours or 2.1 days of service in the Parish, and if you earn $12/hr, then $624 would have been given back to God. How well did you do?

 

As we move into the year that will be, we should ask ourselves: how many times will we say I love you, or thank you, or God Bless you? How much time will be spent in giving, praying, and serving? There’s not much time between cradle and grave. No time to waste. No time to lose. The clock ticks. The bell tolls. For whom? For me and for you. Now is the time…

 

Happy New Year!

 

Love, Fr. John B.

Merry Christmas

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Love, joy, and peace are words often associated with the infant in the manger in Bethlehem. But truth be told – the best way to describe him: subversive.  His birth undercuts all worldly power and assumptions. Even at the moment of birth, there was “no room in the Inn,” and as C.S. Lewis often quipped, “God had to sneak clandestinely behind enemy lines.” This world would not receive this newborn King and has found ways to reject him ever since. The swaddled child was an immediate threat to the political order and an object of panic to the religious community. Herod wanted him dead; the Temple officials wouldn’t tolerate this version of a Messiah. From this point onward, Jesus turned the worldly powers on their heads, he subverted the old religions, and those who dared to follow him were hunted down as revolutionaries, disloyal citizens who threatened the status quo.

If you think that the birth of Christ no longer holds any subversive quality, just look around and see the many who are hostile to His Gospel. The proclamation of Jesus Christ can be just too much for so many. Just look around at all the Christmas cranks who cringe at the site of a manager or shriek when hearing the words: Merry Christmas.

This sweet child in the manger would, after all, grow and declare, “You are either for me or against me” and “he who does not gather with me, scatters.” His presence alone caused division. It has been that way ever since. He left His Church as His visible remaining presence among us, which puts humanity in the position to be either moving towards the Church or away from it. So if you are a Catholic who no longer is part of the Church, then you inevitably find yourself fighting to find ways to move away from the Church.

It’s worth taking a look at what and why we fight to stay away from the Church. For some the reasons are rather superficial: “I don’t like those people,” “they’re hypocrites,” “the Pastor is a scold,” “all they do is ask for money,” “I don’t get anything out of it,” or “I don’t need to go to Church to pray.” For others the resistance goes a little deeper: “too many rules to follow,” “after all, who is the Church to tell me how to live my life.” “to be a good person it doesn’t matter what you believe,” “being a good person is all that matters,” “it’s what’s in my heart that matters,” “I don’t hurt anyone.” Some of us will fight against the Church because she refuses to go along with a certain lifestyle or will not co-sign on immoral behavior, and yet others of us are intellectually constipated and refuse to see the harmony between faith and reason. Then there is the ultimate sleight of hand: “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Yet even these excuses reveal a heart and mind that is full of theological preconditions. The theological is as inescapable as the biological part of our nature. Whatever the rationalization for resistance to Christ and his Church, everyone who comes in contact with it needs to ask the fundamental question: Who is this Jesus?

Truth is that we all experience this resistance at different points in life. The challenge then is for us to step out of the black hole of our egoism and consider for a moment that we might not have all the answers. What is it that the child of Bethlehem proposes to us? He comes to us to both reveal and teach us the way of love. This love is a radical self-gift that seeks only the good of the other. It is best expressed in a life lived for the sake of the other. It is not a subjective love that only loves so that the other will love back. It is a participation in the self-giving Love of God. And by coming to know and love Christ, we find the way to authentically “love one another” and not just some gushy sweet sentiment we label as goodness.

This New Year offers us a new opportunity to get honest with ourselves and take a long loving look at our resistance, rebelliousness, or indifference to the Gospel message. It is simply too big and too significant to ignore.

If you have been avoiding Church or just wandered away or have real issues with the Church, her teaching, or her practice, I invite you to “Come Home” to where you belong. And maybe spend some time with us, take off the gloves and cease fighting and find the real reason for your resistance. The process is simple but not easy, but it is the way to peace.

Since that first Christmas morn, history has not softened the impact of the Child in the manger. He remains a flashpoint for all time. In our own historical moment the demarcation of those who are for and those who are against Christ is becoming crystal clear. Which side are you on? Are you all in?

So 2018, all 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months and 525,600 minutes will be another opportunity to allow the Christ Child to show you where you really stand.

 

Love, Fr. John B.

 

Rockin’ Around Christmas Divorce

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

Each year at this time I reprint this letter. While this may not be pertinent to all, I’m sure you know many divorced couples and if you know them well enough you can pass this along.

Each year thousands of American children are informed that their parents are divorcing and that there will be new living arrangements with the children alternating time between parents. Adults who experienced divorce as children frequently report that the holidays were especially stressful for them during their own childhood. This means that divorced or separated parents have to take time to figure out and discuss what the holidays should look like for their children and not what suits the parents or the custody arrangements. After all, we say, “Christmas is all about the children” but do we really set it up to be so?

What should Christmas morning look like then in these situations? Well, every young child wants to be at home for that special moment when they discover what Santa left under the tree. Children also want their siblings and parents present. If there has not been a remarriage I would suggest for example that if the children are living with Mom then maybe Dad can sleep on the couch on Christmas Eve (or arrive early) so he can be there when the children awake. (This means Dad has to refrain from any amorous feelings and stay on couch.) In this way, the children can have both parents together on Christmas morning and not feel the absence of one parent or the guilt that comes from being with one parent and not the other.

During the holidays children of divorced parents are often transported all over the country to be with their non-custodial parent. Is this the best thing for a child and whose purpose does it serve? I really question the wisdom of this arrangement. How comfortable is a child being taken out of their home and familiar surroundings, away from their friends at such an important time of the year? My instinct tells me that children would be more comfortable in their homes on such a day and at another time travel to their other parent’s home. How does a child feel when they have to leave Mom for Christmas to be with Dad or vice-versa? A child will often experience guilt and anxiety or a sense of betrayal, not exactly the fa-la-la merriness of the season. Children of divorce are often forced to operate in two different worlds and have to struggle to make sense of them both causing them to feel very alone. This forces them to act like chameleons in order to conform to two different sets of expectations and therefore being at home in neither. This is all especially acute when children have very infrequent contact with their non-custodial parent.

Gift giving is also a challenge. Too often parents vie for a child’s approval by getting them a little more or a little better gift than the other parent. What I suggest is that parents decide together what to get the child. This way one parent does not undermine the other or pit the child against the other parent. It usually goes down like this: Dad gets the child a gift the mother does not want the child to have. The mother may have good reasons to withhold a certain present. An example might be a new computer: Mom doesn’t want Junior to have a new computer because he already spends too much time on the one he has and has abused it but Dad knowing this goes ahead and gets it anyway sending the message that Dad is the nicer parent and Mom is merely a dictator.

The point is that parents even if divorced still need to communicate about the needs of their children. This means at times putting aside personal grudges and resentments and acting in a way that serves the child’s best interests. The best thing to do is to come up with a common gift list based on the child’s needs and wants and then split up who buys what. And what will make it really nice is if all the gifts are under one tree so that even if the non-custodial parent can’t be present he or she will still be included in that important moment.

Divorce, I realize is an unfortunate reality in our culture. While I wish it wasn’t so I still believe that if adults can carefully pay attention to the needs of their children then the emotional havoc wrought on children can be minimized. Christmas is the best place to start doing this. Obviously an “amicable” divorce is preferable to a bitter one but still, there is no such thing as a “good” divorce, at least not when children are involved. That’s an illusion adults create to assuage their guilt.

So, at Christmas divorced or separated parents obviously have a choice to either “rock around the Christmas tree” or throw rocks at each other through the Christmas tree. When you choose the later then our children are the ones being bruised.

Love,

Fr. John B.

Watching From Afar

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

Sometime during that long, painful Lent of 2002, as the Church’s abuse scandal unfolded, I said that one day, by God’s grace, the Church would be in a positon of leadership on this issue. That day has now come. Now is the time to use our experience to help others. Watching someone else’s scandal unfold is painful and haunting. Someone asked if I was glad to see the media, Hollywood and public officials get their comeuppance, especially after how viciously so many of them went after the Church. Not at all. It is a joyless moment. That’s because another scandal means that people have been harmed and as the moral panic spreads a wide net is cast which means that innocent people will get caught up in the fallout as due process is shunted aside, and mob justice replaces it. Slowing down the moral panic that these revelations cause is often like trying to stop a speeding freight train. Sadly, a lot of bystanders get run over.

All of us in the Church know from our experience that as a scandal unfolds, it’s like nuclear fission; it will rip through organizations and institutions quickly and thoroughly, just as it tore through diocese after diocese in the US. To all of those who are going through an unfolding scandal in your organization, know that it will cause incredible pain and wreckage and extract a terrible price. At the same time, it can be an opportunity to rid your organization of the evil of sexual abuse. Steady yourself for the long haul, and don’t be surprised if you often feel as if you are wading through pools of raw sewage. Unfortunately, trust will be destroyed, sometimes permanently, among people inside and outside your organization. Still be committed to restoring trust.

And just as so many of us in the Church have asked, “How could this happen?” and “How is it that we didn’t know about it?” many in other organizations are asking the same questions. That’s because sexual abuse and harassment often have fuzzy qualities about ithem. The film, Doubtdoes a good job of showing how most people mistake the signs of abuse for something else. But those who are armed with knowledge and a willingness to enforce the rules, as the Mother Superior in the film was, can spot the early warning signs of abuse.

As someone who has dealt with the issue of sex abuse for the past 30 yrs from just about every angle, there are some things I would share with those in the media, Hollywood, and the Halls of Congress. First, stop splitting hairs; don’t compare degrees of abuse or harassment cases. That only gets you tripping over your words and makes it look like you are absolving some and condemning others.  The media frenzy and contingency lawyers will be in relentless pursuit. You will not win the PR game. Therefore, commit yourself firmly to putting in place policies and procedures to prevent abuse, to allow for reporting of real or suspected abuse, to develop objective investigation procedures, and make sure that you are doing what you say you are doing to make your organization a safe place for men, women and children. This means that everyone has to abide by the same rules, no exceptions ever. From the CEO to the janitor, all must be trained repeatedly on how to create, maintain, and monitor the environment so that it is safe.

When the two ingredients of power and opportunity combine, abuse becomes more likely. So if it is a Hollywood director who has the power to make or break an aspiring actress’s career and they are together alone and unobserved, the situation becomes unsafe. That power differential can be played out in a hundred ways in all sorts of organizations. So create safe environments where people can be observed. Have a process in place so that a person can report incidents of harassment or abuse so that it can be objectively investigated, and all person’s rights can be respected. The accused deserve due process; not all accusations are real. Then make sure to have a policy of disciplinary procedures so that you know what action to take in each circumstance. Is this referable to law enforcement? Is this an HR issue? Is counseling or additional training required, etc?  The punishment should fit the crime. Again, no one gets a pass because of positon or title. This is not a one-time deal. It is a commitment to a way of doing business permanently.

As you read this, I realize I am not telling you anything you do not know. Those who work and volunteer in the Catholic Church are well trained in Safe Environments. I know that it is not always fun to renew the training each year, but I hope, in light of all that has unfolded recently in our culture, you can see how important it is. Because of your trained eyes and ears, we are able to keep our environment safe and able to deal with any issues before they become problems.

So if you are not up to date in your training, you have until the end of this month to do so, or I will have to “disinvite” you from volunteering or participating in Church related ministry. If you need help, contact the Parish or School Office for assistance. In the meantime, please pray for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse or harassment and that a greater respect for all people may emerge from this latest scandal.

 

Love, Fr. John B.