Conversation Starters For a President Abroad

President Trump’s first foreign trip at the end of May was announced just after he signed the Religious freedom executive order. Ironically, three places he will visit – Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome – are major hubs for the three great religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Saudi Arabia, according to official statistics, is close to 100% Muslim, predominantly Sunni.  Israel was established as a Jewish state this week in 1948. 

Rome has been a center of Christianity since Peter and Paul journeyed there in the first century and, subsequently, the Bishop of Rome was designated the Pope. 

As Citizen Sullivan, I suggest one topic for President Trump to raise in his conversation with each foreign leader.  Keeping with his preferred modality of policy communication, the President should update us by tweeting out the leaders’ responses.  

In Saudi Arabia, he should ask about religious freedom for non-Muslims. Maybe a simple question could be: Where can I go for Sunday Christian services?

In Israel, he should ask about refugees in the Palestinian camps. He might ask to visit one.

At the Vatican, he might want to, face to face, tell the Pope how great it will be when the new Mexican-paid-for-wall is built and how the Pope is wrong on immigration and refugee matters.  

I await the tweets.

Diversity Reigns

Catholic Charities is a the center of building a more just and compassionate society. We engage in a wide range of activities and interact with many different people.

Here’s a collage for this week –

  1. Twelve consul generals from Latin American countries meet at the Catholic Charities Community Services Immigration and Refugee Resettlement offices. (Top Left)

  2.  Evi Siskos from Telemundo was the MC for Astors Services Junior Gala at the Supreme Courthouse in lower Manhattan. (Top Right)

  3.  Zoe Saldana was taping her guest satellite radio appearance in the same Sirius studios that JustLove was taping.  Here’s a picture of her as she was leaving. (Bottom Left)

  4. Two talented Catholic Charities immigration attorneys from our expert legal team. (Bottom Middle)

  5.  On the same day as Pres. Trump’s Executive Order on religious liberty, the Becket Fund held its annual dinner.  This photo demonstrates the breathe of religious freedom issues in the United States. (Bottom Right)

A Small Detour During My Trip in Germany

 

I am currently in Germany.  Why?  I am here to give a talk for a conference on the Catholic identity of Catholic Charities in Berlin.

But there’s more.  This year is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation being marked in Wittenberg, a small town about an hour south of Berlin. This still medieval-like town, now called Lutherstadt Wittenberg is where Martin Luther posted his famous 95 theses on the door of Castle Church n 1517 that started the movement.

So I decided to “eavesdrop” on the pilgrimages being made to Wittenberg for an overnight a couple of days prior to the Conference.  I love when a “non-plan” comes together.  This and other postings are not “theological treatises” of ecumenical dialogue. These are a few thoughts of one sojourner to a conference on Catholic identity distracted for a day or two meandering to the founding city of Protestantism.

Last evening as I entered the town, I saw a notice for an organ recital in an hour in the City Church of St. Mary’s where Luther did much of his preaching.  I quickly dropped off my bag in the hotel and walked over.  It was a great way to begin my dropping in on the 500th anniversary.

So here I stand, how could I do other?  Yes, the allusion is intentional.   What is coincidence, but the grace of God.  He’s a much better planner than I am. Thank God – pun intended.  I am off to walk this still medieval-feeling town today.   

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Holy Thursday: What It Means Today

Lent is over and now we begin to celebrate these three most sacred days that commemorate the center of our Christian faith. Paying homage to our Jewish roots, we begin after sunset “on the night before he died,” and keep a modified vigil. Tomorrow, we will lift high the cross. On Saturday & Sunday, we will light the Easter flame, discover anew the empty tomb, and proclaim for ourselves and for the world that he is not among the dead, but here, with the living.

For this reason, it is important that we not get distracted today by some of Holy Thursday’s evocative traditions. Some still dwell on the ordained priesthood. Others focus on the solemn procession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Still others spotlight the moving ritual of the washing of the feet.

However, as inspiring as these may be, none are the heart of the first of the Sacred Triduum celebrations during the three days that lead up to Easter. For this, we turn to today’s appointed scripture readings that, each in its own way, draws us to the irremovable, yet not gentle, core of these days:

The first reading from Exodus confronts us with the “blood of the lambs and the guts of the Egyptians” as the price for the Jews’ Passover liberation from slavery in Egypt.

Paul’s letter taught the Corinthian Christians and reminds us: “that when we share this meal, we proclaim his death.”

And in a more euphemistic and elegant way the evangelist John informs us of Good Friday’s agonizing crucifixion by announcing “this is the hour for Jesus to pass to the Father.

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Thank God for the Kind People

Tip of the Day:

Today, try two quirky random acts of kindness – one in the morning and one in the evening.

 Verse of the Day:

Bible Readings for Saturday of Fifth Week of Lent

 

Reflection of the Day:

I can figure out two reasons why Jesus annoyed the people of his time.  The first is the traditional understanding.  The political and religious leadership thought he was getting too popular and might usurp their respective spheres of power and authority.  That’s understandable, even if not noble.  But the other reason you and I can relate to.  Sometimes individual who are kind, humble, giving and content can make us jealous, frustrated, and even angry?  So maybe that’s why some others didn’t follow Jesus. Well, maybe in our time we should think about those kind and loving people as God’s gift to the world and to ourselves. We might learn from and imitate their example.