From The Hoya: Building a Better City

Originally published on 7th April 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.

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Image Credits: Paul Luke Keh

By: Hunter Estes

Washington, D.C., has been my home for more than just my time at Georgetown. I moved here when I was 12, after my dad was transferred to the Pentagon, and I have loved this city ever since. Having lived here for a few more years than most, I feel that I have a more complete view of D.C., one that includes much beauty, but also much struggle.

When I first moved to the nation’s capital, I was awestruck by the monuments and the statues and reveled in the symbols of liberty, freedom and tradition that stood throughout the city. Unfortunately, I think the magic of this city can often cover up some of its deeper faults.

I have come to see the deeply entrenched poverty that consumes one in five D.C. residents. I saw one of the fastest-growing homeless populations in the United States, with a 34.1 percent growth in the past six years. I saw monuments rising into the sky, but at the same time saw high school graduation rates remain as low as 42 percent. I witnessed the enduring legacies of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but also noticed rising crime rates becoming legacies of their own.

At Georgetown, we often talk about the wonderful ways we can interact and engage with the city. We hike through the District with friends in an attempt to “break the bubble,” on a constant search for new, hip places and events to try, rooms to escape and art galleries to appreciate. The fact is that D.C. has plenty to offer, and could easily keep somebody excited for four years, especially with school to occupy most of the time.

Yet, our city, in many ways, is splitting apart. In some places, new businesses flourish and real estate prices are booming. In others, infrastructure is crumbling, and schools are failing. We, at Georgetown, have the opportunity to either isolate ourselves or become an integral part of the rebuilding of D.C. As members of this community, we have a duty to invest more than what we get out of the District. We are called on to be a part of the solution.

The first step to helping the city is active reflection. Only then can we truly start to both appreciate the greatness and recognize the failings of our city. If Georgetown is to play a role in the revitalization of Washington D.C., then we should do so in a uniquely Georgetown way: a uniquely Jesuit, uniquely Catholic way. Jesuits take part in the daily Examen, in which they think back through their day and look on how they succeeded and how they failed. Reflection is rooted in our history, and I believe we should begin this process by reflecting on where we have succeeded and failed as a school.
Many of our failures stem from lack of awareness, and the only way we can help is by being informed. We can change this in small ways, through town halls and forums, bringing in speakers to talk about local issues. So often, we focus our attention on national and international affairs, but if we want to change the world, the easiest place to start is in our own backyard. People are left without homes just outside the front gates, and too often even Georgetown food banks are short on both food and volunteers.

But we have also succeeded in many ways. I believe we need to build upon the success of groups that engage with the city more tangibly. By tutoring children and volunteering in food shelters, we can help make immediate change.

How much has been accomplished if, at the end of four years, all that we have gained is a series of letter grades from classes? There is so much more to our education on the Hilltop. We are called to a higher sense of service, to not only take from this city, but to give. By increasing our school’s integration with the community we can have an immense effect on D.C.’s future. We can help this city change, and we are called to as Hoyas.

 

“Lord, who is my Neighbor?”: A perspective on Charity

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Image credits: flickr.com

By: Paul Luke Keh

“Those whom the world rejects must move you the most!”

– St. Louis de Montfort

In this period of Lent, Catholics all over the world are called to engage in fasting, penance and charity, in our preparation for the passion of our Lord on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Since previous blog posts this Lent have spoken of fasting and penance, I write today to share my perspective on charity and works of mercy as Catholics.

The Catholic church has long emphasized an option for the poor, and as Christians we are called to be present and to give to the less fortunate. Pope Francis has repeatedly called us to serve the poor and to always keep them in our prayers in his message:

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.”

– Pope Francis, Evagelii Gaudium, 187

I have no doubt that we all feel a strong connection to helping the poor, and indeed the Knights of Columbus in Georgetown have been very active in our efforts to be present to those who are poor in our midst. We are called to respond to Jesus’s message

“… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

-Matthew 24:35-36 (NRSV)

But I feel that Christian charity and works of mercy means so much more than just giving to the poor and those in poverty.

To me, it means being there for those whom the world reject, in every sense of the word: it means being there for people suffering from drug addiction, to stand with undocumented migrants. It means being present to those who come from broken families and relationships, to be with refugees and religious minorities, to be willing to stand up for those that society frowns upon even if that means that we are judged by others for doing so.

Modern society has sometimes made it easy to judge a person’s worth by their economic potential, by their ability to contribute, by the amount of “right” they have done in their lives. But everyone has done wrong in their lives, and no one has any say in conditions of their birth: to despise them for what they have done or who they are is to reject Jesus and the message He gave us, for He said:

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

– Matthew 24:40

Somebody once told me to picture the scene in your life that you are most ashamed of, one that you don’t want to remember, and now imagine that that scene is now the only one that people talk to you about. That is what it feels like to be rejected by society, to be despised for the things you did, or for who you are. While the Church recognises that some things are sinful, and that some things must never be permitted, we should also remind ourselves that we reject the sin, not the sinner.

Charity and works of mercy should always be our first response to those whom the world rejects, not condemnation, so that through us the world may see the saving power of God. St Francis of Assisi is known to have instructed others to “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” This, to me, is the most powerful form of evangelisation.

This period of Lent is a time for introspection and preparation. Let us pray for the courage to give of ourselves to those who need our help most, and to have the humility to ask the Lord, who is my neighbor?

“… Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

– Luke 10:36-37

From The Hoya: Our Essential Suffering

Originally published on 24th March 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.

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By: Jack Segelstein

The first day of Lent is perhaps the busiest day of the year for Dahlgren Chapel. Far more Hoyas come to Mass on Ash Wednesday than attend weekly Sunday service, even though only the latter is morally obligated by the Catholic Church.

There are two ways to view this discrepancy. The first is with cynicism. People on campus and around the world come to Ash Wednesday mass because they “get something.” They receive a mark that distinguishes them as dutiful believers like voters sporting buttons on Election Day.

I am in no position to say whether this is true or to what extent it motivates Georgetown students. If it were true, however, it would smack of more than a little irony. The ashes are first and foremost a mark of penitence. They remind us of our sinfulness and mortality, which we are meant to remember throughout Lent.

It is not a “happy” day like Easter and Christmas, but one of solemnity, mortification and sorrow. Christians are spiritually called to walk and suffer with Christ as we remember his 40 days of fasting in the desert to prepare for the temptations of the devil and ultimately his death and resurrection.

My second perspective is hopeful, not cynical. Scores of Hoyas attend Ash Wednesday Mass because they are each responding with empathy and humility to the memory of Christ’s suffering. Thes ashes serve as a source of shame, not pride or ostentation.

But why the shame? For many, Lent is the epitome of Christianity’s ostensibly austere deprecation of humanity. It is often said that the Christian life is fundamentally one of guilt, tragedy and postponement until “eternal life” begins.

If I felt this to be true, I would not be Catholic. G.K. Chesterton, the 20th century Christian apologist, held that the natural — and most mysterious — state of the human person is joy. He felt Christianity better recognized this fundamental claim about humanity than did any other faith or philosophy.

Food tastes better when you are hungry. Assuming we have food available to us, we only allow ourselves to get hungry when we restrain ourselves and exercise discipline. Despite the “suffering” that is hunger, we are more fully rewarded for it when we get around to a meal.

This is, more or less, the logic of Lenten fasting, save for one crucial piece. Christianity shows us that hunger itself has intrinsic value, something that has nothing to do with later consuming food. The same applies to all suffering. In fact, all suffering entails a sort of joy.

I do not expect most of you to buy this. I was a recent convert to Catholicism when this principle — sometimes called the neighborhood of joy and pain — was first explained to me, and I was actually offended by it. I thought it perversely misunderstood the often-unutterable suffering in the world.

However, if you distill Christ’s life to one essential act,  he elected to suffer on the cross to save us. Yes, it was Christ’s destiny to die on the cross, but he exercised real, utterly human discipline in submitting to his captors and enduring each nail.

We are, then, profoundly Christ-like when we suffer. Further, we have the opportunity to offer our suffering for him precisely as he did for us. Far from perverting human suffering, Christ’s suffering allows it to be redemptive.

Perhaps some people object to my locating Christ’s essential action in suffering instead of love. But surely they are not mutually exclusive. Love is giving oneself over to another — it entails sacrifice and requires suffering. Indeed, there has never been a greater act of love in all of human history than Christ’s suffering on the cross.

While it is true that fasting — and its accompanying suffering — helps purge us of our sin, it does much more. It allows us to more fully love God and one another, thereby more closely resembling Christ. We wear the ashes in shame precisely so we have less reason to be ashamed

To all those observing Lent, suffer. Not mindlessly or masochistically, but lovingly. Call to mind your mortality and sinfulness, but remember how they make God’s love and suffering for us all the more remarkable. For this, rejoice.

Guest Post: Hearing the Divine Call by Max Bindernagel

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By: Max Bindernagel,  Chaplain in Residence in Georgetown University

“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3. 10 (NRSV)

Today, “discernment” is as popular a spiritual topic as any, and there seems to be a great interest, especially among young people, about how one can be best attentive to the voice of God.  Unfortunately, for many this tends to take the form of an “existential crisis” in one’s life.  People searching for God’s will torture themselves over the many questions (often good, legitimate ones) which accompany this search: What does God want from me?  When will he let me know?  How can I hear him?  Out of a genuine concern for doing God’s will and following the promptings he inspires in one’s heart, this search easily becomes fraught with all kinds of needless anxiety.

A helpful corrective comes from Bl. John Henry Newman, the 19th century English theologian, convert, and cardinal.  In his homily “Divine Calls,” Newman comments on the many examples of God’s call as seen in Scripture, especially the call of Samuel.  The common theme among the many instances in which God prompts various men and women to do his will lies in the response: “prompt obedience.”  Like Samuel, who, once he knew Whom he was hearing, obeyed and listened attentively, so too we ought to eagerly and quickly obey the promptings of God in our own heart.  There is something childlike in the trust that this requires; if we know and trust that God has our good in mind, what reason do we have to be anxious?

But how do we hear that voice in the first place?  Newman was not satisfied with those who said that God’s call has already been answered by us when we were baptized, and who say that it therefore remains “not a thing future with us, but a thing past.” On the contrary, God is constantly at work in our lives, and our labor is to respond consistently to his ever-deeper call to holiness.

In the daily trials of life, often “indefinite and obscure,” “sudden and unexpected,” we answer God’s call by obeying him.   We learn something new which we know to be true but which we find difficult to accept; and we follow God’s will by accepting it rather than fighting it.  We deal the loss of a loved one, and through much grieving and pain we come see that God alone endures; and in this we follow God’s will.  We are challenged by a situation in which we must choose to stand by our faith or to abandon it; and in remaining steadfast, we follow God’s will.

For those who make a regular practice of this prompt obedience, the “bigger questions” about discerning one’s vocation will be shown with greater clarity.  When we follow God’s inspirations in the small things in life with greater ease (in the circumstances of life, in our conscience, in studying our faith), we develop a deeper attentiveness to God’s greater plan for our lives.  This work of answering the Divine Call is one of mutual trust, where our freedom and his are totally intertwined.  As Newman puts it:

“This is a call to higher things; let us beware lest we receive the grace of God in vain. Let us beware of lapsing back; let us avoid temptation. Let us strive by quietness and caution to cherish the feeble flame, and shelter it from the storms of this world. God may be bringing us into a higher world of religious truth; let us work with Him.”

This essay was written with reference to a homily by Bl.  John Henry Newman. 

 

The Truth about the Ashes

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Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

 By: Board of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus

This Wednesday, March 1, a curious sight will return to Georgetown’s campus as many, young and old, walk their daily routes with crosses of ashes marked across their foreheads.

To the outside observer, this occurrence might seem a bit odd, but to a Roman Catholic, the practice presents a different meaning, denoting that Ash Wednesday has arrived, and with it, the season of Lent leading to the Easter holiday.

Look below to find answers to important questions about Ash Wednesday presented by the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus.

Do you have to go to mass?

The first question that might arise for a Catholic on Ash Wednesday might be: “Is this a holy day of obligation?”

The answer to that question is no, however, it is recommended that one make an effort to attend a mass on this day, and receive their ashes.

On campus, traditional masses with a distribution of ashes will be held in Dahlgren Chapel at 12:10 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. with an ecumenical service also featuring a distribution of ashes offered at 7:30 p.m.

Just off campus, the Holy Trinity Catholic Church will host Ash Wednesday masses at 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

What do the ashes mean?

In the simplest terms, the ashes distributed at the start of Lent are marks of repentance. They are an acknowledgement of the frailty, or the imperfection of all Catholics as human beings.

In recognizing the faults symbolized in the ashes, Catholics are meant to re-affirm their connection to God. Catholics then strengthen this bond throughout Lent when they fast, or alternately, make an effort to do good works for others.

Where do the ashes come from?

According to some sources, the Ash Wednesday holiday harkens back to an ancient practice of repentance seen as early as the story of Jonah and the people of the sinful city of Nineveh.

Upon hearing that God would destroy Nineveh in 40 days if they did not change their ways, the Ninevites “great and small” began fasting, wore sackcloth, and even their king “covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.”

Early Christian communities adopted the practice of outwardly marking repentance with ashes, with the ritual appearing in the Roman Missal—the book which guides priests through the rites of the mass—as early as the eighth century, or the 700s A.D.

The ancient practice has been observed into the modern day, with one parish in Galway, Ireland, this year instituting a drive-thru service for its busy and mobile population.

“It’s about meeting people where they are,” Fr. Paddy Mooney, the priest of the parish told The Irish Catholic, a local Catholic media outlet. “We’re just putting [the initiative] in front of people to help them think of Lent, as a reminder of it.”

But what is the truth about the ashes?

The truth about the ashes is that they arise from a tradition over 2,000 years old—they serve to connect Catholics to past generations of believers, even as the Catholics wearing them today seek to bring themselves closer to God.

 

Guest Post: Abortion and Intrinsic Evil by Fr. Fields, SJ

 

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Photo Credits:Wikimedia Commons

By:Stephen M Fields, SJ, Associate Professor of Theology, Georgetown University

The annual ‘March for Life’ convenes on the nation’s capital every January, the anniversary of ‘Roe v. Wade,’ the Supreme Court’s decision making abortion easily accessible.  In the wake of this year’s recent March, it is worthwhile for us to review why the Catholic Church insists so strongly on the pro-life stance.

The Church is guided in its teaching, not first and foremost by its religious faith, but by the “natural law.”  This is the system of ethics based on a rational reflection on human nature and its ends and purposes.  From this reflection, an understanding of what is good and bad, right and wrong, emerges.  The natural law, then, is simply those ethical norms that arise from the way our nature is intrinsically structured.  This structure is known by what we call “right reason”: that is, reason thinking consistently, coherently, and honestly about who and what we are and about our destiny and purpose.

The development of the natural law has a long history in the West.  We find it, for instance, in Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, in Cicero and the Roman jurists.  It was brought to a high point by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and it continues to be developed today.

A basic and fundamental norm of the natural law affirms the following: Evil may never be done, even to bring about a good purpose.  In other words, a good end never justifies a means that is wrong.  We see this clearly in Socrates, who argues that doing wrong does profound injury, not first and foremost to the person injured, but to the perpetrator — to the human being doing the injuring.  This is because doing evil fundamentally violates the dignity and integrity of our very nature.

The rule that evil may never be done stands at odds with other views of ethics, such as utilitarianism.  This states that what is good is determined by what produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  According to this system, one may make a moral case for the killing fields of Cambodia under Pol Pot in the 1970’s, and the massacres at Strebreniza in recent years in the Balkans.

Why then we might ask, is abortion an act that is intrinsically evil, and so may never be done, even to produce a good result?  The natural law shows us that abortion is what we call “the direct taking of innocent human life.”  As such, it is fundamentally wrong.  Let us explain these terms.

First, why is the fetus “human life”?  It is equipped from conception with the genetic and chromosomal material that defines humanity.  Human life constitutes a continuum from conception to death.  There is no point in this continuum where it makes sense to draw an arbitrary line and to say that at this point the embryo or fetus is not human.

Second, why is the fetus “innocent” human life?  The fetus has done nothing wrong that merits, in justice, any harm to itself.  It is not, for instance, a criminal convicted by due process and therefore worthy of punishment.  It is not a soldier fighting in a just war and therefore liable to harm.  In strict justice, therefore, the embryo and fetus merit protection and nurturing.

Third, why is abortion the “direct” taking of innocent human life?  The direct doing of any act means that a person consciously intends to do that act.  In other words, the person does not do something wrong by accident.  When, for instance, we are involved in an automobile accident and someone is harmed or injured, if we are obeying the speed limit and we skidded on some hard-to-see oil on the highway, then we would be judged far less severely than if we had been driving while under the influence of alcohol.  In the first instance, we would have harmed an innocent person indirectly.  We would not have consciously intended it, nor would we have done anything within our reasonable power to bring about the injury.  In the second instance, we would be much more directly responsible for harming an innocent person, because we had done something wrong – the drinking – that led to the injury.

In sum, then, because abortion is the direct taking of innocent life, it is always and everywhere wrong, no matter what the circumstances or the intention of the person doing it.  Consequently, it may never be done.

From The Hoya: Why We March

Originally published on 27th January 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.

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By: Richard Howell

Today, the 44th annual March for Life winds its way through Washington, D.C., starting at the Washington Monument and heading toward the steps of the Supreme Court.

We, the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, attend the March every year in accordance with our desire to promote a culture of life on campus and around the nation. We oppose euthanasia, the death penalty and particularly abortion because of our belief in the supreme innocence of its victims.

We march because we believe each individual human being is created uniquely and lovingly by God. The act of creation does not occur at birth, but rather at conception, when the process of life begins. This belief is not only the official position of the Knights, but that of the Catholic Church and, ostensibly, the university as well.

Although we champion Georgetown’s values by marching, we will go this year, as we have in the past, without the university’s support. While many of our peers attending institutions such as University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America receive a day off from class to attend, Georgetown University has refused the petitions of its attendees for a similar allowance.

The inaugural March for Life was held Jan. 22, 1974 and attracted 20,000 marchers. That day marked the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that reasoned a woman’s right to privacy allowed her to decide whether to have an abortion.

We continue to hold that abortion is the most pressing issue of our time even 45 years after Roe, as nearly 60 million abortions have been legally sanctioned in the United States, roughly the same number of people who died in World War II.

Although Nellie Gray, the founder of the march, had originally intended it to be a one-time event, she instead pushed to have an annual march to keep issues the opposition of abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia on the national radar.

Since then, the March has attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters, including more than 600,000 in 2013. Featured speakers have included sitting presidents such as Ronald Reagan in 1987 and George W. Bush in 2003, as well as numerous members of Congress. This year, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway and Cardinal Timothy Dolan are set to deliver addresses.

Together, we reject the arbitrary distinction between born and unborn because we believe life persists fundamentally unchanged from womb to world. A child is no more alive one minute after birth than one minute, or even six months, before. Accordingly, no utilitarian argument could dissuade us from our stance against abortion.

Further, we reject the claim that a society, family or single parent would be so disadvantaged by the birth of a child so as to justify the destruction of the child’s life. No one has a right to determine for another when life is worth living.

Of course, we hope that all those sympathetic to the cause attend despite the university’s lack of accommodation, but more importantly we hope this occasion might instigate a respectful dialogue on campus centered on life, which we and the Catholic Church hold to be the single most essential value of human existence.

Many on campus disagree with us, often in the name of principles such as liberty and privacy. However, there is no scale on which to measure the value of a human life, which is qualitatively superior to privacy, liberty or any other right. The only choice, then, is whether or not to recognize the worth of every human being. Those of us who identify as pro-life stand on the side of human dignity and will not allow life to be cheapened.

Although the fetus starts as a clump of cells, it rapidly and ineluctably changes. I, too, am a clump of cells, but I am not the same clump as when I was conceived, nor will I be the same in 10 years. Life, then, is fundamentally a process of growth and change, which has its decisive, fragile and miraculous beginning in the womb.

Link to original article: http://www.thehoya.com/howell-why-we-march/