Pastoral Letter Regarding the Upcoming National Election

Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

 

Sisters and Brothers,

 

This past Sunday, The Word of God penetrated our hearts with these two images:

 

God hears the cry of those who are lowly, outcast, and without power because he can touch their hearts in lowliness and humility. But, those who hearts are self righteous and hard, go away from God unheard and unjustified. We must approach God in prayer and need like the tax collector, relying on God's mercy, not our own self righteousness or vanity.

 

If nothing else, this campaign season should open our eyes in self revelation, that our country is still plagued with all kinds of prejudice driven by fear. Our hearts are still often too hard and too closed. We hear talk about walls of division and false security, charges of blame against people of Muslim faith, base humiliating descriptions against women and minorities. We must not allow ourselves the self righteous smugness to see ourselves as a nation without fault or without need of improving. But, what has always been great about our country and remains so, are hearts that hear each other, and over time, listen to our greater voices to correct our journey in justice and greater inclusive equality. The question remains, are we listening to those greater voices?

 

As we, as a people of Christian faith and American society, prepare to celebrate the great feast of the Church: the communion of Saints, I propose to us, some examples of those greater voices from our faith and national heritage to inspire us to be our best selves and pray for leaders who will do likewise as we undertake, the sacred civil responsibility of voting.

 

As a Church we offer a novena of prayer and reflective journey of icons of justice and peace, true leadership, and examples of humility and meekness, but also strength of conviction. Let us take nine days beginning with the Eve of All Saints, October 31st and continue to pray until election day, November 8th. Let us ask God to grant us leaders with hearts of service, humility, and justice to inspire us to commit ourselves to making a nation free from fear and injustice, free from hate, and division, a nation committed to justice and equality for all: male, female, gay, straight, trans-gendered, Black, White, Native, Asian, Latino, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist.

 

Let us pray together, work together, one in mind and heart into God,

 

+Joseph Augustine

 

 

 

Safety is Not Peace and Security is Not Love"
A Pastoral Letter for the Church of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova

My Brothers and Sisters, My family in Christ our God,

St. Paul assures us that God is the "Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort who consoles us in our affliction." (2 Cor 1:3-4) We know that Christ showed and taught us that we are God's hands of comfort to each other. And so our first act is to pray. Pray for the souls of those who lost their lives in the Orlando massacre this weekend and their families. Pray for the members of the LGBTQ community who are again targets of hate, pray for the family of God that know him through the prophet Mohammad again smeared by fear. Pray for our country so wounded over and over by violence and mass killings by guns of mass murder. Be the hands of God to those in these communities in your life. Let them know that God is love and we are of God because we love the way Jesus has loved us. (Jn 15:9-12)

But, our prayer and love calls us next to action. God's kingdom needs to be built up by our hands who call ourselves God's children. We, especially who claim Christ, must live a new birth, "a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Pt 1: 3-9) We can not give into despair or failed attempts to claim justice for all, peace for all, compassion and acceptance for all. The deaths and sufferings of those victimized by hate, fear, and ignorance in Orlando, in South Carolina, in Connecticut, and across our land, will rise to a new life of hope and freedom, love and mercy, peace and real life, if we, by our hands and actions, give birth to that new life. The seeds of the martyrs is the life of the Church.

"Blessed are they who show mercy... blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice... blessed are the peacemakers." (Mt 5: 1-12) These calls of Jesus are all active, not passive. We are called to do, to be, to make happen if we are to be called children of God. The venerable Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

"How does peace come about? Through political treaties? Through big banks, through money? Or through universal...rearmament? Through none of these, for in the single reason that in all of them peace is confused with safety. There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. To demand guarantees is to mistrust...Peace means to give oneself totally to the law of God. Battles are won, not with weapons but with God."

To that end, we are called by our baptismal covenant to God to dare to seek peace and not just safety. Dare to risk our own security for the life and justice of the whole community and country. Practically speaking then, we as a people, and our Church in particular, is called, challenged, and committed to the following in the name of God and our Lord Jesus Christ:

1. To speak out against rhetoric of fear and bigotry whenever found. Do not let politics of fear and division cloud the call for inclusion and justice for members of any ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, or orientation group. To that end, those "pastors" who have called for violence and death toward members of the LGBTQ and/or other minority groups have made themselves anathema to the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray and await for your conversion of heart with open arms, but condemn your words and actions of the present.

2. To engage in the responsible citizenship of political action for the inclusion and justice of all people under the law in the United States. All must be seen as equal, all must be protected by law and by specific law if necessary. The addition of LGBTQ persons to the federal protection clause along with race, gender and religion is beyond its time. Those who introduce laws to exclude the rights and freedoms of persons due to race, religion, gender, economics, or orientation stand in moral opposition and grave social sin to love, peace, and justice, and will not go unchallenged by the Children of God. These include, but are not limited to the righst to work, be housed, vote, and love.

3. To engage in the struggle for serious and responsible gun control legislation and understanding in our country demanding responsibility to coincide with the rights of the Second Amendment. Peace is not safety and assault guns give weaponry and means of mass murder to hatred and fear. Assault style weapons and multi round clips are meant to kill people en mass, and are unacceptable to a country to be guided by peace and law. Proper screening and vetting of persons before a weapon sale is responsible and reasonable. Those who live in the new life of the resurrection will not be tired or despaired in this fight any more.

It is never too late to be peacemakers, to be seekers of justice, or to live as Children of God. May all those martyrs of fear and hate in our recent history pray now for us at the throne of Love Almighty. May their families be a source of inspiration and courage, and may our call in faith as people of the resurrection spring forth now in new life for all, new life in freedom and courage, and justice for all. May our country become a community that is a circle growing ever wider to include all people of good will and loving mercy. I call on and support all our local faith communities to make this call real and a source of community with practical ideas to share. It only happens if we struggle through the labor and give birth to our dreams.

Prayerfully yours, one in mind and heart into God,

+Joseph Augustine

The Most Reverend Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM
Bishop and Prior General
Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova

 

 

 

 

 

Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Independent Catholic Church

Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova

Our Lady of Grace Friary

6605 Hilltop Dr.

 

Brookhaven, PA 19015

 

Pastoral Letter: Justice in Political Discourse

February 2, 2015 Office of the Bishop and Prior General
Presentation of the Lord

My brothers and sisters,

We are truly Church when we listen and hear the voice of the Spirit speaking in all of us. Recently, one of our clergy voiced in conversation, the moral and civic outrage we all should feel at the political campaign rhetoric and discourse of Donald Trump in particular and the radical voices on the far right in general.

These voices give a platform to what is most base in our existence: fear, division, demagoguery, and discrimination of every sort from race and gender, to religion and origin. We, as the Body of Christ, must raise our voices even louder to give a platform to what is most genuine and admirable about our American culture and Christian discipleship: “neither Greek nor Jew, neither slave or free, neither woman or man, but all are one in the Lord,” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

As a Church in Jesus Christ, we condemn and refute this type of derisive discourse and hateful speech as antithetical to our American values and our particular Christian Church’s discipleship. We call on and remind all political parties that they hold a responsibility to treasure the values that make us the beacon of freedom and justice that we proclaim to be. We further call on them to disassociate themselves from persons proliferating this hate and condemn political rhetoric that is all too reminiscent of 1930’s politics of Nationalism rather than the centuries’ old democratic values that are America.

We call on our brothers and sisters, and leaders in particular, of Christian faith and all those whose faith in the Ultimate is rooted in justice, peace, love and equality, to raise a collective voice that condemns politics of fear and hate as having nothing to do with God.

Yours, one in mind and heart into God,

+Joseph Augustine

(Most Rev.) Friar Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM
Bishop and Prior General
Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Independent Catholic Church
Diocese of St. Thomas of Villanova