Recapping and Reflecting on Interfaith Week 2017

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A group of students from a variety of faith backgrounds united to pack toiletries for Syrian refugees this past week. Photo credit: Orthodox Christian Fellowship.

By: Georgetown University Knights of Columbus

Embracing the interfaith imperative of the Catholic Church, the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus co-sponsored a campus-wide “Inter-faith Week.”

Our efforts to encourage Georgetown students to participate in the university’s Jesuit values of interreligious understanding and community in diversity were met with enthusiasm and co-sponsorship from eight other Campus Ministry student organizations.

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Inter-faith Week 2017 was co-sponsored by nine Campus Ministry student organizations.

Throughout the week, participants were invited to experience first-hand the religious rituals of faith traditions that span the globe and that represent nearly three quarters of its population.

At the close of the week, students came together to participate in a community service event where they packed 200 sets of toiletries to be sent to International Orthodox Christian Charities and distributed to people in need in war-torn Syria. The Orthodox Christian Fellowship sponsored the event, after which students were invited for fellowship over a pizza dinner.

In order to gain a first-hand perspective of the impact that this initiative had on its participants, the Knights asked for reflections from students regarding their reactions to the services of the faith traditions that they attended.

We have included these reactions below.

Hindu Prayer Service

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Photo credit: Hindu Student Association

I found the experience to be enlightening and focusing on one’s mental health. It was a nice relaxing time. I was glad to be in attendance.

-Anonymous Catholic Student

I found the Hindu religion to contain an internally incisive view of one’s placement in the context of the central forces of their lives, as well as of their mental state generally. The meditation promoted a sense of mindfulness that was energizing even for someone like me who does not practice what I have learned is not one centralized religion, but a diverse collection of faiths. The prayers and accompanying music allowed for a realization of the metaphysical underpinning of all things. I am glad that I attended and would recommend others to do so to witness a vibrant culture and a strong community. I only regret that I could not stay for dinner!

-Anonymous Student

Protestant Sunday Worship10.15.17 Interfaith Protestant Sunday

Protestant Sunday worship was filled with powerful songs in praise of God. In the service, I found a practical message encouraging one to allow their goodness and light to outshine the dark places in their life and to embody the positive moral teachings of God.

-Anonymous Student

I very much enjoyed the chance to attend the Protestant service Sunday evening. I loved the incredible music and believe that the service created a rich environment for prayer and fellowship. The sermon was powerful and the prayers were moving, and it was great learning about both the similarities and differences between a Protestant and Catholic service.

-Hunter Estes, SFS ’19

Catholic Mass

The Catholic Mass was quiet and reflective, with beautiful singing and a sermon that encouraged people to actuate their beliefs in their daily lives. It was a valuable and peaceful way to conclude my evening.

-Anonymous Student

Orthodox Christian Vespers

10.18.17 Interfaith Vespers

Vespers was a beautiful ceremony. I really enjoyed the chanting which lifted up the voices of the people to God in such an inspiring fashion. I am very thankful that we were invited to be a part of this service.

-Hunter Estes, SFS ’19

 

 

 

 

Buddhist Meditation

10.19.17 Interfaith Buddhist meditationI found the experience of Buddhist Zazen meditation, otherwise known as Zen meditation, to be a spiritually fulfilling endeavor. By focusing on one’s breath and upon their feelings, one can take stock of their mental state, which is often lost in the hustle and bustle of campus life. Through meditation, one can become more present in their day-to-day activities.

-Anonymous Student

Muslim Jum’ah

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The Muslim Students Association and the Muslim community welcomed guests to their Friday prayer service during Inter-faith Week.

As a Catholic who has never had any Muslim friends or virtually any exposure to Islam at all, I was quite excited to see what I would discover attending my first Jum’ah service. Above all, I found the imam’s message about gratitude and thanksgiving especially powerful. Growing up, I’ve heard the idea of being thankful to God for all one has multiple times, but I have never been so convinced of that idea until I heard the imam’s articulation of it. I also noticed a common thread between the Abrahamic faiths in their emphasis on this virtue, as “Eucharist”, the source and summit of Christian life according to the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council, and “Jew”, or “Yehudi” in Hebrew, both etymologically mean thanksgiving. And I could not be more thankful for the vibrancy of religious expression found on our campus and in our world.

-Melvin Thomas, COL ’18

I found that the Muslim ritual of praying with the whole body in motion was an effective way to show our submission to a higher power, and that the teaching on gratefulness for every aspect of one’s life showed a deeply ingrained sense of humility that was refreshing to see in our world.

-Anonymous Student

As a Buddhist, it pangs me dearly to hear of the suffering of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Rakhine state. We must all come together in the interreligious tradition of love and reject hatred in whatever false name it uses.

-Anthony Saya, MSB ’18

Jewish Shabbat

10.20.17 Interfaith Shabbat

The joyous celebration of Shabbat allowed me to experience the vibrancy of the Jewish community on campus and to realize some of the many similarities between my faith and the Jewish tradition. The community provided me with a warm welcome, and I was happy to sing praises to God in their company.

-Anonymous Catholic Student

Saturday Community Service

Participating in community service was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I would encourage other students to seek out community service on campus, in the District and beyond. The fact that people of many faiths came together to do community service made the event more meaningful and was symbolic of the great things that can be accomplished when the diverse members of the human family unite behind a common goal.

-Anonymous Student

It was a pleasure to work with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and other members of the Georgetown community to provide simple necessities for Syrian refugees. There was a great turnout, and many hands made very quick work.

-Jack Segelstein, COL ’18

 

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An Open Letter on Marriage, Love Saxa, and Georgetown’s Catholic Values

The Georgetown University Knights of Columbus believe accusations that Love Saxa is a hate group – along with calls for it to be defunded as a student organization – are baseless.

In an op-ed published in The Hoya earlier this year, Love Saxa’s president wrote the following:

“Love Saxa’s definition of marriage does not include same-sex couples, as we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than [a] commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

Love Saxa’s detractors object to this definition because it excludes LGBTQ relationships. In their view, Love Saxa’s promotion of this definition of marriage constitutes a hateful mission that should prevent it from receiving funding from the Student Activities Commission.

Rather than being rooted in hate, however, this message comes from a tradition grounded in love that finds dignity in all people. The words of Pope John Paul II remind us that “God has imprinted his own image and likeness on man, conferring upon him an incomparable dignity.” This foundational truth guides our relationships with all of God’s children, and inherently rejects hate as inimical to the Catholic life.

Furthermore, the Church acknowledges the difficult position of gay individuals in society, and clearly states that “[t]hey must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and that “[e]very sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Out of love for His children, God instituted an ideal of marriage that fosters joy and happiness. Pope Francis recently summarized the beauty of this relationship: “The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.”

Let us be clear: Stripping Love Saxa of funding would be an affront to Georgetown’s Catholic tradition and an improper judgment regarding the true nature of marriage.

Georgetown was founded as – and remains – a Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition. The Catholic Church has clearly articulated its position on marriage:

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”

It would be nonsensical for a Catholic university to defund a student organization that upholds the Catholic understanding of marriage.

We believe that care for the person, or Cura Personalis, means supporting an individual as a child of God in a way that is ordered to truth and moral virtue. Given that Georgetown is a Catholic institution, and the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal, service organization, we believe that care for the person should be understood in light of the truth of the Catholic faith.

It would be uncaring to suppress a group for upholding an element of Catholic Social Thought that is foundational to human flourishing.

– Georgetown University Knights of Columbus

A Reflection on Holy See-United States Relations

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His Holiness (Left), Max Rosner (Right)

By: Max Rosner

The first diplomatic scandal between the United States and the Holy See included an autographed picture of the Pope. Near the beginning of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy, wrote a letter asking for the Holy See’s support for their war efforts. Though Pius IX did not sign a letter expressing formal allegiance or support, he did include a photo of himself in his response letter. The real uproar was not a glossy photo, however. Pius addressed the letter to “Jefferson Davis, Honorable President of the Confederate States of America.” Congress immediately banned diplomatic ties with the Catholic hierarchy.

Over time, the ban diminished in force. Pope Paul VI, in the midst of the Second Vatican Council, embarked on a journey to the United States. The 1965 trip — the first time the Pope stepped foot on American soil — culminated in a speech to the United Nations and a mass in Yankee Stadium, billed as “The Sermon on the Mound.” Even with such a landmark visit, the United States remained one of the few nations not to have formal diplomatic ties with the Catholic Church.

As the Cold War was reaching its climax, President Ronald Reagan escalated his rhetoric towards the communist threat. Luckily, he found an ally in Pope John Paul II, a man who lived under two totalitarian regimes. John Paul II recognized that his international political platform possessed significant clout, so he took his anti-communist message to the masses in Soviet-influenced Poland. Ronald Reagan, possessing a nuclear arsenal and the world’s largest economy, realized that he could not take down the USSR on his own. John Paul II had something Ronald Reagan lacked: moral authority. In 1984, Ronald Reagan sent the first US diplomat to Rome, presenting his credentials to His Holiness. He obliged.

Today, the US-Holy See Relations remain strong, finding common ground on issues ranging from religious freedom to human trafficking. While the United States holds more global diplomatic ties than any country in the world, the Holy See is second, being diplomatically recognized by 183 states.

Why should the Holy See—with a population of a couple hundred people and possessing only six more acres than Georgetown University’s main campus—be engaged in diplomacy, particularly with a country which advocates separation of church and state? Simply put, the Pope and the Curia hold both spiritual and temporal power. With regards to the former, the Church decides and explains doctrine, helping a billion Catholics foster their relationship with God. Yet the Vatican is also a temporal power, with jurisdiction over territory. Since the Church barely has a standing army and little commerce, it employs soft power around the world. For example, if I were to say the word, “intelligence gathering,” the image of CIA spies would arise in most people’s minds. Yet, the US government cannot be everywhere, especially in some of the world’s worst conflict zones. The US government depends on priests, nuns, and social justice workers to provide critical information in areas ranging from Rohingya to South Sudan. Ultimately, both the United States and the Vatican depend on one another to advance one goal: world peace.

Christ & Covenant

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By: Jack Segelstein

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

The covenant between God and the Jews was both unique and exclusive. This is a hard truth for Gentiles who, as Paul reminds us, were once “alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

We would need to wait for Christ. “For he is our peace, he who made both one… that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it” (Ephesians 2:14–16).

Utraque Unum. Both one. The Latin motto on the Georgetown seal is often cited as a symbol for the reconciliation of faith and reason or of Union and Confederacy, but its origin is in Paul’s teaching. The world—both Jews and Gentiles—is made one in the life of Christ.

Georgetown calls herself to that same mission of reconciliation. She has been largely successful in this, particularly in encouraging and facilitating interfaith dialogue. Rarely has this dialogue been more needed and fruitful than in the past few weeks, particularly for our Jewish peers and friends.

This year campus has witnessed a wave of anti-Semitism, manifesting itself in the most visceral and hateful form known to modern man. Most recently, multiple swastikas were found painted in a women’s bathroom on campus during Rosh Hashanah, a High Holy Day celebrating the Jewish New Year, a time of solemnity, remembrance, celebration, feasting, and preparation for the Day of Judgment, Yom Kippur.

Of course we cannot know whether the offenses coincided with Rosh Hashanah by malicious intent or unhappy accident. Regardless, the university offered a robust spiritual response. Shabbat, a weekly Jewish service on Friday at 6:30 in the Leavey Center that is open to all members of the Georgetown community, was exceptionally attended, and Jewish prayers were offered at every Sunday mass.

Moreover, the incidents were roundly condemned by all corners of campus, with many offering sentiments not unlike those issued at Vatican II. From Nostra Aetate: “[T]he Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

The Knights of Columbus are proud to be a part of Georgetown’s efforts to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding. Next month we will be launching Interfaith Week with eight other student faith groups, in which students will engage other faith traditions by attending their weekly services. Additionally, the Knights are planning dialogues with specific faith groups throughout the semester as well as a lecture on Christian-Muslim understanding.

Though we eagerly anticipate engaging with all faith traditions at Georgetown, we recognize the Church’s special relationship and indebtedness to Judaism. The foundations of the Church were laid by her Jewish ancestors, who were her first teachers, prophets, and expounders of Revelation. The covenant was not wiped clean by Christ, but was brought to new fullness in his incarnation. The Jews “are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28–29).

We remember the gifts and the call made by God to the Jewish people, and pray that they may not be forgotten.

From the GK’s Desk: State of the Council Fall 2017

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Grand Knight Hunter Estes manning the grill at our Catholic Welcome Back BBQ!

By: Hunter Estes

The State of the Council

Georgetown Knights of Columbus and Friends of the Council,

It has become a custom of sorts, that, at the beginning of each semester, the Grand Knight offers a short reflection on the council and his vision for the months ahead.

Here, I offer the official State of the Council:

In short, it can be said that our council is both extremely strong and healthy. We enter this semester in ideal financial standing, which will allow us to pursue a range of events and opportunities that we have been unable to before. And, most importantly we maintain a vibrant and energetic group of Catholic gentlemen committed to service and the bonds of brotherhood.

Now, we have begun the normal set of operations here on the Hilltop, as our routine events, including card making for hospitalized children, massketball, and spiritual discussion dinners are in full swing! We look forward to kicking off other traditional events such as Grate Patrol, house masses, and sandwich makings once more. Already, this year, we have hosted a range of other fraternal events such as a pilgrimage to the local delicatessen known as Stachoswki’s, game nights, and more.

Beyond our normal events, we have planned an exciting and eventful semester. Our board plans to put together a range of new events to strengthen our faith, our commitment to service, and our fraternal relationships.

We look to deepen our understanding of our faith by continuing the series of sacramental discussions which involved inviting a Jesuit into a deep conversation of the symbolism that plays a role in each of the sacraments. We also hope to find new ways to integrate our faith into everyday life by hosting prayer sessions, Bible studies, rosary prayers, casual theological discussions, and more.

Coming up soon we will be welcoming a new set of gentlemen into our council. As we shall hold our semesterly induction ceremony on Sept. 29th. We are excited about this active new crowd, and all that they will bring to our council.

The board and I are extremely excited to once again support October as “Life Month.” During this time, we will co-sponsor and help to promote a series of events on the death penalty, abortion, poverty, and other issues that are deeply rooted in our society. We look forward to sharing this conversation with the campus and supporting the life movement in all ways we can.

Furthermore, the Knights have taken the leadership on organizing and institutionalizing an annual “interfaith week” at Georgetown, during which time, we encourage students to attend the spiritual events of other traditions. This week will then culminate with dinner, discussion, and reflection on all that is gained by bringing our campus faith groups together.

We are also currently working with the Muslim Student Association to put on an event that will bring our groups together for fruitful dialogue. As well, the Knights are working to partner with the Buddhist Student group on campus to bring together the practice of meditation with readings and prayers from Scripture.

Finally, it brings me great pleasure to announce that it was now 45 years ago that the Georgetown Knights of Columbus council was first founded. In, what is sure to be our largest event of the semester, we will be hosting a day long celebration of our rich history on the Hilltop, with events including a talk on the intersection of faith and service, a mass, and a reception. We look forward to bringing together the entirety of the Knights community on campus, as well as friends, supporters, and local alumni to celebrate 45 years of giving back to the Georgetown and D.C. community through service efforts that are grounded in our faith.

With these ambitious plans, I am proud to state that our council is indeed thriving. This semester is sure to be great and I encourage you to follow our progress through our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as our weekly blog posts on our website.

Welcome New Students!!!

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Image credits: commons.wikimedia.org

By: Victor Gamas

Beautiful. Big. Daunting.

Those three words best describe my initial reaction when I first stepped foot on Healy Lawn as a freshman. Despite its beautiful architecture and impressive size, Healy Hall does not cease to be a daunting symbol I walk past every day. In a sense, my reaction to Healy Hall is representative of how I see my time at Georgetown.

Because of its grassy lawns and gothic architecture, surrounded by the rich history and culture of DC, and the values that Georgetown upholds and defends on a daily basis, to say that Georgetown is beautiful is an understatement. As a freshman, everything seemed so big to me: the senior football players, the stack of books on my desk, and the dreams that I had for my years as a student and my life after. This, of course, can be extremely daunting as I am cramming for my Econ test and contemplating where I will be in 10 years.

Faith. Family. Fraternity.

I first heard these words in CAB fair where I was kindly greeted by the Knights of Columbus. Their sales pitch seemed promising, but almost too good to be true. Initially, I had foolishly thought that my faith at Georgetown would solely consist on going to mass on Sundays and that it would be difficult to identify with a group of people I share similar values and faith. I was wrong.

In the Knights, I found what I did not know I needed: brothers in faith and values. Despite the fact that we had just met, I was welcomed as though we had known each other for 10 years. Coincidentally, we all see Georgetown through a lens of beauty; we are impacted everyday by the Blue and Grey’s grandeur and are daunted by what lies ahead of us all. However, the Knights also find peace and strength though our Faith, Family, and Fraternity.

As Knights of Columbus, we are deeply committed to our Georgetown and D.C. community, our fellowship as a council, education of the whole person, and building men for others. Through our mission and actions as a council, we take on Georgetown’s breathtaking nature with courage, like a Knight is expected to do.

Join the Knights today!

For more information please contact me at: vag33@georgetown.edu

A Dissent on Gorsuch: Life Above Text

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Image credits: Pexel.com

By: Nicolo Orozco

This post was taken from the GU Right to Life blog with permission of the author, published on 24th April 2017. It has been adapted to for the purposes of this blog. 

On Thursday, April 20th, Arkansas state officials carried out the first of a series of eight planned executions. The officials were able to administer the lethal cocktail of drugs to Ledell Lee after a lengthy legal process, culminating in a 5-4 vote of approval from the Supreme Court of the United States. Fortunately, for various reasons, four of these condemned men received stays of execution. Regardless, the state has already killed one man, and three men’s deaths remain scheduled. Regrettably, less than two weeks prior to the state-sponsored murder of Mr. Lee, “pro-life” organizations and advocates were lauding the confirmation of Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, a supposedly “pro-life” candidate. On Thursday, however, upon news of Gorsuch condoning Lee’s murder with his first Supreme Court vote, these same organizations and self-proclaimed advocates remained silent.

A truly pro-life ethic entails protecting all lives, no matter race or creed, from conception to natural-death. Capital punishment, by its very definition, conflicts with our ethical stance. By limiting the pro-life movement to a single political party that does not fully align with pro-life values, pro-life individuals are setting themselves up for failure. Pro-life values cannot be a partisan choice, but must be adopted as a universal truth to have complete success. Whether a Democrat, a Republican, or even a member of the United States Pirate Party, it is the duty of anyone who identifies as pro-life to be willing to step beyond party lines and condemn the blatantly anti-life actions of Neil Gorsuch as such.

Gorsuch’s selective disregard for life, while evident in prior court rulings, has truly been exemplified in giving his blessing to Lee’s execution. Lee, while a convicted murderer, had the same right to life that all humans have. Not only was his execution a crime, but the conviction and imprisonment of Lee were also crimes in and of themselves. He was originally convicted by a judge who was having an affair with the prosecutor. Furthermore, his appeal for a stay had strong foundations. Lee argued that he had an unfair trial after his public defender represented him while drunk and failed to introduce his diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as evidence. Such accusations of ineffective council and disability are usually more than enough to warrant more time and closer state attention.

Despite the strong grounds for appeal, however, Gorsuch voted to end the stay of execution, permitting Arkansas to continue with Lee’s murder. The same man who has said that, “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” used his first vote as a member of the US Supreme Court to end the life of a man with an intellectual disability. It is the responsibility and moral obligation of any pro-life advocate who pushed for Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court to chastise his actions and commit him or herself to bettering his or her understanding of life issues. How, we would ask Justice Gorsuch, does a state taking a life differ from a “private person” taking a life in its immorality?

One does not need to examine Justice Gorsuch too closely before his pro-life facade begins to crumble. Gorsuch has always made clear his willingness to rule in favor of the letter of the law over the spirit of mercy both in his actions and in his words. For example, in the well-publicized case of TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board, Gorsuch once ruled that a truck-driver who was fired for abandoning a broken trailer to drive his unheated truck out of sub-zero, life-threatening conditions was rightfully fired for doing so. He saved himself by fleeing hypothermic conditions for the relative safe-haven of a heated gas station, but was later fired for abandoning his broken-down truck to save himself.  In a meticulously written opinion, Gorsuch explained that the text of the law did not specifically protect the truck-driver, and while the driver may have had reason to save himself, he did not have any legal protection. Of seven judges to hear the case, Gorsuch was the only one to rule against the truck driver. In this case, among others, he exemplified his belief that his interpretations of the letter of the law are more important than the sanctity of life he proclaims to believe in.

Gorsuch was advocated for as a pro-life candidate because of the strong, yet inaccurate, bonding of the pro-life label along party lines and the conflation of abortion as the only pro-life issue. Even if one views Gorsuch as an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice, Gorsuch’s writings and statements have made clear that even if he rules against abortion, he will only be doing so because of the text of the law and not on moral grounds. Gorsuch has said that part of being a good judge is “coming in and taking precedent as it stands. And your personal views about the precedent have absolutely nothing to do with the good job of a judge.” When specifically questioned about Roe v. Wade Gorsuch said, “[a good judge] stays with precedent, and does not try to reinvent the wheel.” Moreover, the repeated conflation of the pro-life movement and the Republican Party is a hasty generalization, which only stifles dialogue and further polarizes American politics. As a Knight of Columbus who believes in the universal sanctity of all human life, I see Neil Gorsuch as all Catholics should: an obstacle and a threat to life.

The original article can be found at this link .