Periodically I think about Cardinal Bernardin and his tenure as Archbishop of Chicago. I was stationed at our friary in Hyde Park at Catholic Theological Union as formation director of our community when he arrived, and I remember the excitement and the hopefulness that filled the Catholic people of Chicago as he began his ministry among us. Although I was not present for the Vesper Service at Holy Name Cathedral on the eve of his installation, I recall almost as if it were yesterday his greeting to the priests—and by extension to all the people of the archdiocese—“I am Joseph, your brother.” He could not have said anything more meaningful and visionary of his leadership than those few words. And he truly tried to live out those words day in and day out until the day he died.
Several years later, when I became the Provincial Minister of Sacred Heart Province, I had the good fortune to visit with Cardinal Bernardin at least once a year, sometimes even more. Thankfully most of those visits were to check in with him about our various ministries in his archdiocese and only once or twice to discuss a particular problem that had occurred. I was always struck by the fraternal tone of those visits, by his deep respect for the religious in his archdiocese, and by the very down-to-earth conversations that we had. He was even willing at times to share with me some of the crosses he had to bear as the shepherd of the people of Chicago. He deeply loved the friars, and that came across time after time in those visits. And you might remember that one of the last public appearances he made before he died was here at St. Peter’s when he joined us for the Feast of St. Francis on October 4th. He had made that commitment a year earlier and, even though we told him that we would understand his absence due to his illness, he insisted on being present.
You might also remember one of the things he has become famous for, namely, the Seamless Garment approach to the issue of pro-life issues. The term was first used by Cardinal Bernardin in a speech at Fordham University in 1983. It was a call for a strategy of consistency, a “linkage,” which shows the “inner relatedness” of having a pro-life position which would link opposition to abortion with opponents of the nuclear arms race, the death penalty, euthanasia, and other threats to life. At the heart of such a linkage is the fundamental belief that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death. The sanctity of each individual life comes from our basic belief that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Any movement, any policy which threatens individual human life is a violation of this fundamental sacredness.
Cardinal Bernardin stated in a follow up talk in March of 1984 at St. Louis University that “The Catholic moral vision has the scope, the strength and the subtlety to address this wide range of issues in an effective fashion.” He was trying to symbolize the single attitude one should have toward life. The meaning of the term, “seamless garment,” if not its present application, is familiar to everyone acquainted with the Gospel of St. John. In the context of Cardinal Bernardin’s words, it is meant to convey the idea that one should have a consistent ethic of life. Respect for life should include all human life. Thus, one should not draw a line, or put a seam in the garment, by making an exception where respect for human life is at stake.
I could not help but think of Cardinal Bernardin and the Seamless Garment when I was reading the lead article in Time magazine (June 2, 2014) entitled “A Preemie Revolution: Cutting-edge Medicine and Dedicated Caregivers are helping the tiniest babies survive—and thrive.” It’s a read that I think is most worthwhile and has opened my eyes to what modern science, even as recently as the past two years, has accomplished in helping these young children not only stay alive but to flourish after weeks and months of professional care and parental love. The article cites statistics from the year 2010 when at least 4 million babies were born in the United States. Of these 478,790 were born before 37 weeks gestation, and of this number 462,408 of them survived at least a year.
I learned that now babies can be saved after as little as 28 months after conception and that it takes a team of nearly 300 nutritionists, pharmacologists, gastroenterologists, ophthalmologists, pulmonary specialists, surgeons, nurses and dieticians working around the clock, especially in those early weeks. These little creatures have to move from their mother’s womb into the reality of the outside world long before they are sufficiently developed and before they would have been ready, but they can. In 1960 the survival rate for infants born under 3.3 pounds was 28%; in 2010 it was 78 %.
What a complex situation is involved in regulating all the various body functions of these youngsters. The digestive system cannot handle much food, although food is necessary. Breast milk is absolutely important, but too much can lead to inflammation, bacteria and low oxygen levels producing infection. Getting these babies to breathe on their own is difficult since their lungs lack mature air sacks. And then there is the development of the brain. They must have a tube down their throat, a needle in their arm and monitors taped to their skin; every one of these sensory insults takes its toll.
But it is not just a matter of survival. 17% to 48% of preterm babies will have some kind of neuromotor abnormality, including cerebral palsy. Cost is another issue. The March of Dimes calculates that babies born before 32 weeks’ gestation run up an average hospital bill of $280,811, while other estimates calculate lower, but still they are terrifically high.
Another improvement that has taken place over the past several decades is that we have many more hospitals that are equipped to receive newly-born premature infants which means that these are now more closely located to family homes. In most cases at least one parent must stay at home to continue working while the other is staying at the hospital 24 hours a day. Much of the article centers around the care at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, but we are fortunate to have one of the best children’s hospitals right here in Chicago: the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital at Northwestern right off the Magnificent Mile along with several others that provide excellent care for these little youngsters.
I encourage you to read the entire article if you possibly can. Do so in light of Cardinal Bernardin’s Seamless Garment and Consistent Ethics approach. It is so good to know that we have dedicated people who are working tenaciously to bring life, love and hope to these children and to their families.
FEAST OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
Moses’ encounter with then Lord on Mount Sinai illustrates the mystery of God. God appears to Moses “in a cloud,” pronouncing the name “Yahweh,” which in our translation is represented by the name “Lord.” This ancient name has its roots in the verb “to be” and is considered so sacred by the Jews that they do not even pronounce it today; they use another term in its place. Moses’ response to God’s revelation is to kneel, bowing “down to the ground.” This becomes the standard response to the awareness of the divine presence in the biblical world.
Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthians by encouraging them to “live in peace” so that “the God of love and peace will be with you.” He then provides a blessing, using Trinitarian imagery, praying that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” be present to them. Sharing in the life of the Church, he prays that they will share in the grace of God, who has been revealed as three persons.
Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in today’s Gospel reading are among the most popular of all biblical texts. John 3:16 is often called a mini-Gospel in that it expresses in one verse the core message of Christianity. Like the Israelites with Moses at Mount Sinai, we stand before God as sinners, deserving punishment. But God chooses to love us and forgive us as a sign of his “kindness and fidelity,” spoken of in our Exodus passage (v. 6). In Jesus, God does more than speak words of kindness; in Jesus, God’s goodness is made flesh. By uniting humanity with divinity, God gives us a share in divine life.
For Reflection: How have I experienced God’s love in my life? In all honesty, do I find that God seems far away and often not listening to my pleas? How do I approach the idea of God being a mystery? Do I need to understand or can I accept some things on faith?
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY
In the United States and in many other countries of the world we celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June, i.e., today. All too often fathers can get short shrift in terms of their importance in the family constellation. While not specifically talking exclusively of fathers, allow me to quote from The Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding families from a Christian perspective:
*The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church. It is a community of faith, hope and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.
“The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.
“The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing”
It is obvious that families ideally have both mother and father; each has a particular personality, role and importance to provide the best possible environment not only for themselves but also for the rearing of their children who have been given to them by God to make their mark and to build up the kingdom of God. Fathers are to set an example for the family by their lives—words and actions. Their presence is essential to be a balancing influence on a daily basis, and this means much more than merely offering financial stability. The father’s spirituality and example sets a tone of leadership, one that is both affirming and encouraging. Dads, never downplay the influence you can have on your family; you deserve respect, but you also need to earn it.
Today we honor all fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and foster fathers. May you enjoy your day and recommit yourselves to your time-honored role!
A WEEKEND FOR SINGLE ADULTS
ages mid-30s to 50s
A REFLECT weekend is a unique opportunity to meet with other mid-life single men and women—those who have never been married, are divorced, or widowed—who struggle with some of the same things you do…sadness, loneliness, fear of “getting out there” and meeting people in what can often seem like a couples’ world.
It’s not so much a chance to get to know other singles for the purpose of pairing up, but it’s more a time to find a group of people who are like you…looking to renew their spiritual batteries, reflect on their lives, meet new people, laugh, and relax.
The REFLECT team is made up of Catholic, single lay men and women who have been called to minister to their peers through this weekend. We are people you meet every day at work, stores, sports activities, and church. Our mission is to reach out to single adults in mid-life so that they may come to know that they are not alone and that God has a plan and purpose for their lives.
This retreat from June 20-22, 2014, is hosted by Cardinal Stritch Retreat House, 1300 Stritch Drive, Mundelein, Illinois 60060. It begins on Friday at 5:45 P.M. and ends on Sunday about 4:00 P.M. You may contact them at 312-532-8286 or at www.ReflectRetreat.com. You may also call Cathy at 773-202-0466 or Mark at 773-849-3719 for further information. Cost of the retreat is $185.00.
Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time
Being a parent involves a lot of lifting. We lift our infants from their cribs when they need to be fed or comforted. Later on, we lift them when they fall and scrape a knee. We “give them a lift” to soccer practice or piano lessons. When they are sad and “need a life,” we find ways to cheer them up.
In the musical Les Miserables, the hero promises a dying mother that he will care for her daughter. “I will raise her to the light,” he says. Strong Catholic parents raise their children toward the light of Christ. We do this in many ways throughout the days, weeks, and years they are in our care. Ask yourself, How have I “raised my child to the light” in recent days? How else does my child “need a lift” right now?—Tom McGrath
A CHUCKLE FOR THE SUMMER
The manager of a large office asked a new employee to come into his office. “What is your name?” was the first thing the manager asked. “John,” the new guy replied. The manager scowled. “Look…I don’t know what kind of a namby-pamby place you worked at before, but I don’t call anyone by their first name! It breeds familiarity and that leads to a breakdown in authority,” he said. I refer to my employees by their last name only—Smith, Jones, Baker—that’s all. Now that we got that straight, what is your last name?” The new guy sighed and said, “Darling. My name is John Darling.” The manager said, “Okay, John, the next thing I want to tell you is….”