Thursday, May 9, 2013

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

I had the great privilege of attending the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in DC bright and early this morning.  Papal Nuncio Archbishop Vigano was present to send the greetings of Pope Francis.  After breakfast, two speakers -- one lay and one a bishop -- addressed the crowd of over 800 people.  

Helen Alvare, always a delightful speaker, said it was difficult to compress in ten minutes a synthesis of all that has happened this year.  From the Year of Faith to a new pope, from the US government's accusations of the Church's "war on women" to a stronger than ever push for a redefinition of marriage, it has been quite the year.  Still, in only 10 minutes, Helen Alvare gave an outstanding speech with a few of the following highlights:

  • Today many people urge Catholics to leave the hot button issues alone and talk about the weather instead.  But this is an application of the Good Samaritan parable -- which human rights issues do we see?  We don't get to choose which moral issues we engage.  They are put in our path based on the place in time we occupy.  The question isn't what we respond to, but how should we respond.

  • We have resources today that our grandparents did not have.  We have Theology of the Body articulating the dignity of the human person.  We also have decades of experience with failed theories on how to care for women and the poor.  We don't have to theorize or prophetize (ala "Humanae Vitae") anymore.  We just have to face the problem and get to work.  

  • We have to be fearless in defending the poor and women.  The poor are not being cared for, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  There is a poverty of marriage among the poor too, and this needs to change.

  • "The Catholic approach has something to ruffle everyone's feathers" when it comes to economic, social and political issues.

  • Pope Francis is fearless both with the poor and in linking sex, marriage and parenting.  We need to become fearless too.

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs next addressed the gathering.  He focused on the link between marriage and the new evangelization.

  • "Evangelization makes the Person of Jesus known in His love and His mercy."

  • "Evangelization must always lead to conversion."

  • The Second Vatican Council document on the Church (Lumen Gentium) says (in other words) that marriage and family life are inextricably bound up with the new evangelization.  

  • John Paul II continued this by saying that Christian couples are missionaries of love and life.  They evangelize through their lives and also through their words.

  • Marriage is integral to the new evangelization.  It has a unique way of evangelization.  Parents evangelize each other.  They evangelize their children.  Sometimes, children even evangelize their parents.  

  • Marriage isn't new, but every person is new -- unique and unrepeatable.

  • Stable marriage and family life builds culture.

  • The new evangelization can lead us to a renewal of marriage.  

  • Love is a commitment that demands generosity and responsibility.

  • To the married couples in attendance  he closed by saying, "I admire you for the love and sacrifice that defines your life together."  He prayed that this love may be a source of joy, and gave a reminder of having Christ "at the center of your life and your relationship."
The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast will be rebroadcast on EWTN on Friday and on Saturday. 

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