Be a missionary!

St. Therese Lisieux is patroness of the missions though she hardly traveled in the course of her brief life. She desired to be a missionary and spent her life making little sacrifices of love to further the work of Christ.

Most of us will never visit Bolivia or any other part of South America, but we can be co-missionaries with our St. Louis priests and the other priests and religious who go there on our behalf. It is as simple - and as profound - as making little sacrifices of love to further and support the work of Christ. A little goes a long way - a little prayer each day for the growth of the faith - or a dollar for each year we have had the benefit of our Catholic faith. As our financial means allow we can send our donation through any of our parishes this week. This weekend is the annual collection for the St. Louis Archdioce-san Latin America Apostolate, and our prayers and offerings are lifted to the Lord on its behalf.

The true Church is apostolic, and each member is called to be a missionary every day, becoming more aware of our solidarity with God's children - our brothers and sisters in Christ - and making for them, often, some little sacrifice of love.

Responsibility for the Great Eight

Last week in Genoa, Italy, leaders from eight powerful nations met for the G-8 summit meeting. G-8 is the abbreviation for the "Group of 8" and describes meetings focused on the international monetary situation. Attendees are the heads of state of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Italy, Germany and Canada. The "G" meetings began in 1973 as G-5 meetings with finance ministers from five nations and have grown in membership over the years with heads of state in attendance.

The conversations at the Genoa G-8 meeting touched on a broad range of subjects, from monetary policy to tariffs to the more general topic of globalization. These issues are clearly important for the citizens of the G-8 nations. However, all the world is impacted by these issues, and the eight nations of the G-8 have a special responsibility to the citizens of the world, not just their own. As Catholics, we are called to witness to this responsibility and encourage policies and decisions that promote dignity and respect for all members of the human family.

More and more commentators talk about how "small" the world is becoming. Technology and information systems make us citizens of the world. We are able to monitor the world - and make a difference. Our globe-trotting Pontiff has shown us this and has been eloquent in his call for solidarity for all people. In a letter sent to the G-8 leaders, Pope John Paul II reminded that "no person or nation be excluded from your concerns" and that you do all you can to "promote a culture of solidarity which will make possible concrete solutions to the problems which weigh most heavily in the lives of our brothers and sisters and in their relations with others."

There are many reactions to this call to solidarity, especially in the face of the rapid pace of change. News accounts from Genoa included descriptions of violent protests and the tragic death of one young man. Violence of all kinds must be deplored. Reports indicate that protesters were throwing handmade Molotov cocktails at police. If true, this is not solidarity, not even protest, but anarchy - it has no place for informed, concerned, faithful citizens. Rather, we must educate ourselves and advocate for change. We must come to understand how the world can be positively impacted by the promotion of liberty and the sanctity of life. As Americans, we must avoid exporting our worst values (disrespect for the unborn, capital punishment) in favor of our best values (equality of all, freedom, education). It is not easy, but we must reach out.

Yes, we Catholic faithful must hear and respond to the call to solidarity. We have as our model our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and as our earthly shepherd, his vicar Pope John Paul II. Solidarity means prayer and action: We see the way and must respond. In these days of global questions, each of us has a role to play.

Father Paul C. Reinert, SJ

With the death on July 22 of Jesuit Father Paul C. Reinert, a genuine St. Louis icon passed into eternity and completed a golden page in the history of our region.

For 75 of his nearly 91 years, Father Reinert gave devoted service to God, the Church, the Society of Jesus, St. Louis University and the people of our community.

Father Reinert's long association with St. Louis University was a happy marriage for him and for the institution. He became president of the university at the age of 39 and served in this capacity for 25 years. In 1974 he became the first chancellor of St. Louis University, and even in 1990 when he was named chancellor emeritus he continued working full time, giving much of his time to support fund-raising and further expansion efforts.

Father Reinert presided over the university at a time of great societal change. As dean of the school of arts and sciences, he would support the integration initiatives of 1944. As president he would direct the admission of the university's first female students in 1949. Scholarship programs helped foster these new enrollments in particular and the overall school population grew considerably. St. Louis University made clear its commitment to Midtown St. Louis with the expansion of the campus.

Because Father Reinert succeeded as a leader in ecumenical cooperation and was an eager participant in providing opportunities for the poor and underprivileged, he was sought out as counsel and sponsor to a myriad of Catholic and community projects. He often helped and he was a grand ally.

Father Reinert was, above all else, a talented, dedicated and hard-working priest who collaborated with "Cardinals" of both the Church and baseball variety. He gave religious instructions to the late August A. "Gussie" Busch and received him into the Church. He was chosen by Cardinal Joseph Ritter to preach at the Mass commemorating his golden anniversary.

Father Reinert was called upon to play many roles - educator, community organizer, builder, fund-raiser, friend and advocate of the needy, but first and always - a priest of God. May he rest in the peace of the just!

No moral free pass

When the Holy Father stressed in his meeting with President George W. Bush the particularly horrific nature of creating human embryos for the express purpose of research, he did not give the president a moral free pass to foster life-destroying research on human embryos that were created for the "higher" purpose of implantation and are now abandoned.

On the anniversary of "Humanae Vitae" (Pope Paul VI, July 25, 1968), it is good to remind ourselves that in vitro fertilization suffers from the same moral flaw as artificial contraception by separating the unitive and procreative ends of marriage. But once these embryos have come to life we may not take that life away. The living testimony in Congress by the Borden twins - adopted "embryos" -reminds us of the only kinds of solutions that can work.

The "compromise" the president should consider is to double or triple government funding for adult and postnatal stem cell research and promote the adoption of abandoned frozen embryos.

This week in St. Louis the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life will declare a mobilization in the black community against embryonic stem-cell research. The groups are asking parishes and institutions in the black community throughout the country to send letters and make phone calls to President Bush and to their representatives in Congress asking them not to fund any research that would involve the destruction of human embryos. Let every Catholic - every person of good will - follow their lead.


We are in the middle of a summer of contradictions.

Most recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose to grant the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to Beijing, China. The decision was criticized by those who believe China's deplorable record of human rights abuses should have precluded it from being selected.

Indeed, China's history of forced abortions, repression of religious expression, crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrations and the recent hostage-taking of American military personnel cause one to wonder: If none of these, what human rights abuse would have been appalling enough to cause the IOC to select another country to host the 2008 summer games?

The Catholic Church is not allowed to exist in China. A "patriotic church" is the puppet church created and approved by the Chinese government. True Catholics worship in an underground Church and face reprisals from the state if they attempt to live their faith in a public way. Many are, to our frustration but to their great credit, martyrs of our modern era.

Yet the director general of the IOC was quoted as saying that "it is not up to the IOC to interfere" in the human rights debate, and that "we are taking the bet that seven years from now, we sincerely and deeply hope we will see many changes." The validation of such hopes should not take seven years. China must begin immediately to manifest the sort of "face" it suggests the world will see at Olympics time. And all continuing persecution against the Church should be exposed as relentlessly as the abuses themselves.

And while an oppressive nation gets a free pass, a religious group with a ministry of aiding those in need gets oppressed.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's law mandating contraception coverage in health plans applied to Catholic Charities of Sacramento. Ironically, the way the law is written Catholic Charities would not be forced to provide the coverage if the people the organization serves primarily were Catholics. But Catholic Charities serves people of all religious backgrounds or no religious background. In effect, Catholic Charities is being forced to violate some of its religious tenets (those relating to artificial contraception) expressly because it is living some of its other religious tenets (those related to aiding those in need). The mandatory contraception coverage law, promoted in California by Planned Parenthood forces Catholic Charities to decide its next move, which could include either appealing to a higher court or curtailing its employees' health benefits in total.

In a summer of contradictions, China basks in the glory of hosting the Olympic Games, while a Catholic charitable organization is made vulnerable to a serious compromise of its principles.

Much ado about mysticism

There is a relatively new scientific field called neurotheology that is causing quite a stir in some circles. Researchers, who have worked with Tibetan Buddhists and Franciscan nuns, are bent on determining what happens in the brain when people have mystical experiences. Their published work reveals fascinating new information about how the brain functions but nothing about the existence of God.

In a well-researched and well-written May 7 cover story, Newsweek magazine reported on these scientific findings. In a nutshell, scientists have discovered that our brains are wired for mystical experiences. What they haven't been able to determine is if the brain is causing those experiences or perceiving a spiritual reality. Also clouding the issue is that not everyone has such experiences. It is thought that we can block the mystical if we are rational, controlled and not prone to fantasy.

To people of faith, none of this really matters. Mystics, such as St. Teresa of Avila, saw their spiritual experiences as gifts from God but did not cling to them lest they become sources of pride and self-indulgence. St. Paul placed mystical gifts, such as speaking in tongues, at the bottom of his list of spiritual gifts and wrote that love of one another was a far better spiritual way. Saints are revered for the love they expressed, not their mysticism.

More important than transient mystical experiences is a continual living in the presence of God. The more we strive to follow Jesus' command to love one another, the more we are able to see God everywhere in our lives - in one another, in nature, in life's everyday experiences. A mystical encounter with God can help us with this effort to love by lighting a fire in us. But the mystical is a means to the end, which is love, not the end itself.

Meditation, the form of prayer most likely to lead to mystical experiences, is no more valid than other forms of prayer, from the rosary to conversational prayer. All are valid in that they enable us to communicate with God on a personal level. Still, mystical experiences can be a valued part of our prayer life, so long as we keep them in perspective. Love of others always reigns.

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