Different kind of teaching

At the blog “Catechist’s Journey”, a veteran catechist provides reflections his experience in teaching 8th graders the Faith. In this recent article, he thinks about the possibility of what could happen if every catechist had many age-appropriate books to share. It is an interesting approach to teaching that many people do not think about, and it made me reflect on how we could bring this idea to more schools and make it most effective.

Growing up, I was home schooled–until coming to college, I never attended a “traditional” school. Although we had assignments that we had to complete for basic requirements, we had quite a bit of freedom to pursue our various interests. Because of my experience (I grew to love the Catholic faith more than I would have otherwise) I think that this guided discovery helps students to really absorb and take as their own what they are learning; although teachers may be able to provide more facts through lecturing, if the students do not care to hear, it will all be for nothing. Books can be a very useful tool in guiding discovery, but there must be choice, otherwise students will likely not feel like they are an active part of the discovery.

The younger generation in our world today does not respond to authority in the way that past generations have; there is a cynicism that makes teaching (especially something as questionable as religion!) very difficult to teach. However, I believe that if we, as catechists, pray and live the Catholic faith and provide our example as well as opportunities for the students to discover instead of just listen, we will have a vibrant Faith in the newer generations. Imagine a teacher that shows their genuine care for each of their students; one that is living a holy life, inspiring curiosity by their deep joy–and offers opportunities through books or activities to learn! It could be a cause of renewal in the Church. Praised be Jesus Christ!



Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday–one of the greatest feasts of the year in the Catholic Church. While we read about the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles and the great works that they did, I think we fail to recognize that it is that same Holy Spirit that comes upon us in Baptism and Confirmation, as well as the one that effects the other Sacraments. Our lack of faith and desire to be used by God is all that is in the way of us having great power for good.

Perhaps it is our lack of prayer that results in a lack of faith; the apostles spent nine days in intense prayer before the Holy Spirit came. Before that, they had walked with Jesus for at least three years, and witnessed his death, Resurrection and Ascension. Through the Scriptures, we are confronted with the life and stories of Jesus, but do we internalize the Mysteries and stand in awe of them? Do we recognize our utter helplessness and complete dependence on God? Do we day-by-day relinquish control of our lives to the One Who created us, loves us, and has a great plan for our lives?

By trying to control our lives without any view towards what God wants for us, we are shutting the doors of opportunity to true greatness. Any follower of Christ will have suffering (as Jesus said, what servant is greater than their master?), but without the Cross there is no Resurrection. We must actively seek and participate in God’s plan for us, not merely follow “my plan.” Let us join our lives so closely to God that the Holy Spirit takes hold of us with his power, transforming our sufferings into our perfection, so that we may live forever in happiness that we cannot imagine. Holy Spirit, pray for us!

Catechesis & Prayer

Catechesis, in many cases, is reduced to “talking” about the Faith. While this is certainly an important element, it must be remembered that instruction in the Catholic Faith cannot lack prayer and example. The entire process of instruction must be steeped in conversation with God, or else it will not bear fruit. The instructor must pray for their students as well as with them so that they may understand the most important aspect of Catholicism. Just as Jesus taught us to “pray to our Father in heaven,” we must assist others in learning to pray in his footsteps.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church dedicates an entire section to prayer. It teaches that prayer is God’s gift, the place of covenant, and the living communion “of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2565). There are numerous examples of prayer for us to learn from, with the first recorded ones at the beginning of the Old Testament. The Psalms are the first large collection of prayers, and we still use them to pray today. Jesus taught and commanded us to live in prayer, and the Church follows that command through the sacraments as well as encouraging private prayer.

There are five types of prayer: Blessing/Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and Praise (CCC 2626-2649).  Adoration is an active acknowledgement as a creature before our Creator. The type of prayer that most people default to is petition——asking for what we need, recognizing that we are dependent on God’s goodness. Intercession is asking for the needs of others. Thanksgiving is most fully seen in the Eucharist, but can and should also be offered in response to the fulfillment of our needs.  Praise is the prayer that “recognizes most immediately that God is God” (CCC 2639). In the first four forms of prayer we recognize what he does for us, while in our prayers of praise we recognize Who He IS.

Catechesis and prayer go hand in hand: without knowledge, there cannot be love–and yet without love, knowledge is meaningless. Just as one small, human example, we can see that people who have an “idol,” or person they look up to as a mentor, will grow much more than those who merely have good examples from history books.

Unless we teach those entrusted to us to pray, the truths of Catholicism we teach will seem empty. Unless we spend time in conversation and communion with Christ, we cannot come to truly know him. Jesus is the Way as well as the Truth and the Life; through prayer and the Eucharist, we live in him, and he will lead us to the Father.

Reflections from Retreat

At JP Catholic this past week, we had the opportunity to participate in a retreat given by Fr. Nathan of the Brothers of St. John. It was a blessed day full of talks, adoration, discussion and joyful interactions with other students. Some of the reflections that stood out to me the most are particularly applicable to catechesis, so I will relate them here.

–The Greek word for baptism literally means plunge.  Name also has a strong meaning, as it is closely united to the person. It is profound to think about the words of baptism in these terms: “I plunge you in the Person of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The reality of what takes place in baptism is that we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, into the very life of the Trinity. It is easy to “know” that, but how often do we reflect on it and order our lives according to it?

–As Christians, we are called to evangelize. What form does this take in our lives? A practical note of advice given was, “do not tell someone that God loves them unless you do.” We must be conformed to Jesus so radically that we are able to truly love and care for the person and so want the best for them. If we just rhetorically tell others that God loves them without having a vitally strong relationship with Him and be allowing Him to use us as an instrument, we will be seen as what we are–hypocrites.

–Whatever we do, we must do it well. Every work of art (in any form) must reflect a “good,” and has the power to awaken a sense of wonder, beauty, and truth.

–Finally and most importantly, we must put our focus on Christ. It is in giving ourselves in love to Him that we will be happy, and he will use us to change the world…if we do not recognize our dependence on Him, and try to achieve good things on our own, they will be empty and with no lasting value. In our world where we focus so much on media, we must recognize that good shows are not what ultimately matters; there is a great contrast between the effectiveness of evangelization of  “The Passion of the Christ” and Mother Teresa in her quiet work. While the former is very good, it does not have the same power of Christ’s love lived in our modern world.

As catechists, our greatest goal should be to spend more time praying for the people placed in our care, and strive to become the best educators we can be. If we love God and love His people, our lives will be fruitful.

New Roman Missal

For quite awhile now, the Church has been working on a new English translation of the Roman Missal for United States Catholics. Just this past week, it was announced that the translation has been approved by the Vatican. (See article here.) While the translation is still being edited, it is expected to be in publication this spring. This is very exciting! While the prayers of the Mass are very beautiful–they could not really be otherwise–our current translation does not have the richness of the original Latin texts. Some of the terminology may be difficult to grasp in English at first, but it will more fully explain what we believe; it will be, as Pope Benedict XVI states, “a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.”

Some of the new texts can be seen here. Although it may take a bit to learn the new words to participate at Mass, I think that the “newness” will give many the opportunity to really examine what we are saying and grow in maturity and appreciation of the Catholic Faith. Praised be Jesus Christ!

The Church’s Social Doctrine- Work: Part III

Now for the finale of this blog series!  May it help people to grasp and appreciate the Church’s social teaching, that they may put it into action and spread God’s love to the whole world.

The Role of the State (cont.)

Set in the midst of State-instituted boundaries, an economy can function properly.  A free market is potentially beneficial to a nation, but “only when the State is organized in such a manner that it defines and gives direction to economic development.”[28] One responsibility of the State that some people see as undesirable is direct intervention, which is to be used “when social sectors or business systems are too weak or are just getting under way, and are not equal to the task at hand.”[29] These interventions can be a wonderful way to assist a struggling entity or economy, but they “must be as brief as possible, so as to avoid removing permanently from society and business systems the functions which are properly theirs, and so as to avoid excessively enlarging the sphere of State intervention to the detriment of both economic and civil freedom.”[30]

Set in the midst of State-instituted boundaries, an economy can function properly.

Another way in which a State can assist an economy is through taxation and subsequent public spending.

“Tax revenues and public spending take on crucial economic importance for every civil and political community… because it will encourage employment growth and sustain business and non-profit activities and help to increase the credibility of the State as the guarantor of systems of social insurance and protection that are designed above all to protect the weakest members of society.”[31]

This function of the State falls under the application of the principle of solidarity.  It is the responsibility of a nation’s people to care for the less fortunate and, since it is difficult to do so equitably on a large scale, taxation and redistribution of wealth is a logical and fair way to accomplish our duty.  The most interesting and edifying fact related to taxation and public spending is that, in assisting the less fortunate, business can benefit and thereby improve society.  How intricately connected are the many issues of Catholic social teaching!

Business in Society

We have already seen many ways in which business affects society, from its impact on the environment to the importance it has for workers and their families.  At its heart, business “should be characterized by [its] capacity to serve the common good of society through the production of useful goods and services,”[32] and it should do these things in the service of man and society.  An additional good geared towards the people of society is summed up well in this statement: “…businesses also perform a social function, creating opportunities for meeting, cooperating and the enhancement [of] the abilities of the people involved.”[33] Much of what a business must keep in mind has already been discussed in previous sections, so we will move ahead to an examination of the global implications of business for society.

…business ‘should be characterized by [its] capacity to serve the common good of society’

Globalization has opened up new frontiers for business, not only in a territorial sense but also in a financial sense.  New opportunities and dangers have arisen in the field of social justice through this worldwide spread of communications technology, fueled primarily by the internet.  For example, the ability for poorer countries to:

“attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market… have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State.”[34]

In light of this, businesses must be very careful which opportunities they pursue, keeping in mind the impact that their actions will have on their own nation’s people, as well as the people of the country into which they are entering.  One such concern should be of effect of hasty, excessive technological innovation in country, which may not allow sufficient time for adjustment and authentic human development.  All in all, businesses must be aware of the cultural, political, and economic ramifications of their actions, because these can be equally important.

To sum up the ideal, socially healthy goal of business, we look to Pope Benedict XVI:

“In order to construct an economy that will soon be in a position to serve the national and global common good, it is appropriate to take account of [the] broader significance of business activity. It favours cross-fertilization between different types of business activity, with shifting of competences from the “non-profit” world to the “profit” world and vice versa, from the public world to that of civil society, from advanced economies to developing countries.”[35]


Taking in the whole of what we have discovered throughout the course of our discussion of business and society, we can see several key themes.  First, the primacy of man as “the subject of work”[36]; second, the importance of work for true human development; third, the need for cooperation between labor and capital; fourth, the necessity for proper facilitation of just economic function by the State; and fifth, the need for responsibility in this new era of globalization.  Let us, therefore, take what we have learned and apply it to our own lives, that in doing so we may grow closer to God and one another.  Let us take up our daily task and occupation, fulfilling God’s design for us by seeing our world as a gift from God.  Let us “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15), as we have been commissioned to by our heavenly Father, his Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[28] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 353.

[29] John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 48.

[30] John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 48.

[31] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 355.

[32] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 338.

[33] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 338.

[34] Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 25.

[35] Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 41.

[36] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 6.

The Church’s Social Doctrine- Work: Part II

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the first part of the blog series.  Now that we’ve all had some time to digest and ponder it, it is time for the second piece!

There are two terms that need defining before you read this part:

Solidarity- “not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good” (JPII, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38). Solidarity, which flows from faith, is fundamental to the Christian view of social and political organization. Each person is connected to and dependent on all humanity, collectively and individually. It is the complement of subsidiarity.

Subsidiarity- “a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry” (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 79). It is the complement of solidarity.

Now, with that background, enjoy Part II!

Responsibilities and Rights of Business Owners and Workers (cont.)

Another duty of employers, which encompasses several workers’ rights, is the duty “to structure work in such a way so as to promote the family, especially mothers.”[15] The rights to “rest”, a safe work environment, “pension” and health insurance, and “social security connected with maternity”[16] all fall under this duty.  Without any of these, the worker would be much harder-pressed to fulfill the obligations necessary in family life.  A person needs rest to effectively work and interact with one’s family, a safe work environment to safeguard one’s physical and mental integrity, and health insurance in case of an accident or old age.  A person also needs a pension for when old age sets in and more rest is necessary, and a mother must have the assurance of her employer and the State that she will be taken care of when she carries new life.  These are all fundamental rights, and an employer is required by solemn duty to provide for these things under Catholic social teaching.

Another duty of employers… is the duty ‘to structure work in such a way so as to promote the family, especially mothers.’

The interactions of the employers and employees should be carried out with the goal of mutual cooperation and betterment, and “first place among these institutions… must be assigned to associations that embrace either workers alone or workers and employers together.”[17] As the Church has said,

“Through this orderly participation joined to progressive economic and social formation, all will grow day by day in the awareness of their own function and responsibility, and thus they will be brought to feel that they are comrades in the whole task of economic development and the attainment of the universal common good according to their capacities and aptitudes.”[18]

In striving for charity, the actions of both parties should easily be able to fulfill the demands of justice and exceed them, all for the greater glory of God.  As the Popes have alluded to and explicitly stated, by respecting the rights of the other and fulfilling one’s own duties, all people involved can grow into more intelligent, dignified, and respectable individuals.  Truly, everything that the Church teaches, if observed faithfully, will lead to the same result.  In God’s merciful love, he left us the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church to guide us into all truth.

Right relations between employers and employees, between those who govern and citizens, presuppose a natural good will in keeping with the dignity of human persons concerned for justice and fraternity.

A final, beautiful summary of the ideal relation between employers and employees and an excellent segue into the next section of our discussions is provided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and reads “Right relations between employers and employees, between those who govern and citizens, presuppose a natural good will in keeping with the dignity of human persons concerned for justice and fraternity” (CCC 2213).

The Role of the State

The State is laden with a heavy burden, especially in these times, because “the social question has acquired a worldwide dimension.”[19] Now, whatever steps a State takes on any issue must be measured against its responsibility to the world.  Pope Benedict XVI warns that “The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development.”[20] This is clearly true when one turns to economic life, most notably since Fall of the year 2008.  “The damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing… [and] the unregulated exploitation of the earth’s resources”[21] are two areas of particular concern for the State.  It may not be immediately clear to all why the State is held so gravely accountable, but the Church has made clear the reasons for her teachings.

At the heart of the economic life of a country is the need for balanced, equitable dealings between workers and employers.  John Paul II made this clear when he stated,

“The State… has the task of determining the juridical framework within which economic affairs are to be conducted, and thus of safeguarding the prerequisites of a free economy, which presumes a certain equality between the parties, such that one party would not be so powerful as practically to reduce the other to subservience.”[22]

In doing so, the State must observe the principle of solidarity without abandoning the principle of subsidiarity.  After all, there is a natural need for certain members of society to become leaders who will work to “preserve [society’s] institutions and do all that is necessary to sponsor actively the interests of all its members.”[23] In doing so, solidarity is upheld and the common good is sought.  On the other hand, the input of individuals and private entities is necessary in concert with that of the State.  Great care must be taken to “avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights,”[24] thereby violating the principle of subsidiarity.  The old adage “virtue is in the balance” applies even in the interactions between individuals, private entities, and the State.

…human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question.

Inextricably linked to the balance discussed above is what Catholic social teaching calls the common good, which was mentioned above.  The State’s “whole raison d’être is the realization of the common good in the temporal order… It has also the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children.”[25] These people oftentimes do not have the ability to protect themselves, so a just society is necessary for the maintenance of the common good.  Part of the responsibility of the State is the care and stewardship of the environment, which must happen in order to perpetuate the health and well-being of a nation’s population.  “As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations.”[26] Without this, neither the people of our own time nor the future generations will be able to sustain themselves because they will not have the health or the resources to carry out their work and, as the Church has said, “human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question.”[27] In this way, even the responsible stewardship of the environment is a necessary area for the State to monitor and regulate if necessary, because it impacts the economic life of a nation’s people.

[15] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 345.

[16] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 301.

[17] Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 29.

[18] Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, 68.

[19] John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 9.

[20] Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 9.

[21] Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 21.

[22] John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 15.

[23] John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 46.

[24] Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 33.

[25] John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 20.

[26] John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 42.

[27] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 3.

The Church’s Social Doctrine- Work: Part I

Catholic social teaching is sometimes said to be the Church’s best-kept secret.  Of course, this is not a conspiracy to hide the truth; rather, it is simply that many people focus on other aspects of the faith when they decide to study.  Whether it is the sacraments, Marian doctrine, apologetics, or any combination of the vast landscape of Catholic teachings, many people do not know about the Church’s stance on social issues.

Of course, this is a shame because of the incredible beauty of Catholic social teaching and its applicability to our lives.  This blog series is meant to give a background specifically on the Church’s teachings about business and labor, the role of the State, and the effects of these things on society.

I hope and pray that all of you will read this series prayerfully, and that it will spark your interest in learning more about Catholic social teaching.  If at any point you wish to learn more about it, feel free to email myself or one of my colleagues (katholikos.catechetics@gmail.com), and we can give you a list of materials to read for more background information.  God bless, and enjoy!


The social doctrine of the Catholic Church is a profound and insightful collection of wisdom, passed down through the years and frequently updated with modern interpretations and adjustments.  From “the first social encyclical, Rerum Novarum”[1] by Pope Leo XIII to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Roman Catholic Church has provided her children around the world with a solid foundation from which to make sound moral, social, and economic decisions.  In fact, “she has not failed to raise her voice against”[2] the many injustices and misunderstandings that human beings often originate, just as she has not failed to offer sound advice and guidance to mankind.  A most necessary and weighty topic on which Holy Mother Church has expounded is that of business and labor, from the perspective of the worker, employer, State, and the whole of society.  This area of Catholic social teaching is quite applicable and coherent, setting forth intelligible principles from which one can justly and charitably make decisions that will benefit the entire global community.  Let us now move forward and address these intriguing and conspicuous issues under three headings; namely, responsibilities and rights of business owners and workers, the role of the State, and business in society.

Responsibilities and Rights of Business Owners and Workers

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII addressed the “vast expansion of industrial pursuits… the changed relations between masters and workmen… [and] the increased self-reliance and closer mutual combination of working classes”[3] that had been sweeping over the world during his time.  He treated issues ranging from the humane living conditions of workers to the right to private ownership of property, touching upon many of the rights that today seem common knowledge but were not so in the 19th century.  Of particular importance is the issue of the relationship between business owners and their employees.  Pope Leo XIII had this to say about the interaction of these two parties:

“The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict… it is ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic.  Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital.”[4]

This, it can be said, is a most fundamental truth, and one which sets the table for a discussion about the duties and rights that exist mutually between employers and employees.  Let us first deal with the duties of employees and their relationship to the rights of employers.

…it is beneficial to both the man and his employer to work well, because through work man improves himself.

The first and most obvious duty of an employee is “fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon.”  In fact, “in work, [man becomes] ‘more a human being,’”[5] so it is beneficial to both the man and his employer to work well, because through work man improves himself.  Even so, man should not work only because it benefits him, but also because it is his duty as an employee to render services that correspond reasonably to the remuneration that he receives from his employer.

Work is at the same time a duty and a right, and is such because of the necessity of work for sustaining one’s life and “the formation of family life,”[6] both of which are inviolable natural rights.  Even more important than serving justice to one’s employer is the support of one’s family, since this is “the first and most important”[7] way by which we are led to know, love, and serve God.  This is a most grave duty, and requires workers to use the wages that they receive as a result of their work in a responsible way, both for the good of their families and the good of the employer, who cannot be expected to pay a higher wage to fund the wasteful habits of its employees.

It is imperative that the worker fulfill the duties he takes upon himself in setting up a contract with an employer because, if he does not do his job well, the well-being of the employer and his other employees may be put in jeopardy.

It is imperative that the worker fulfill the duties he takes upon himself in setting up a contract with an employer because, if he does not do his job well, the well-being of the employer and his other employees may be put in jeopardy.  Take, for example, a situation where an employee, acting as an agent of his employer, is negligent in carrying out his tasks.  If and when the negligence results in harm to a person, the employer can be held responsible for the damage, which could be as grave as the loss of life.  If the damage is severe enough, the business may be forced to close, thereby destroying the livelihood of the employer himself and his other employees, which would in turn further harm their families and society as a whole.  For all these reasons, the employer has the right to receive a full day’s work in exchange for the fair remuneration that he offers to the employee.

It is true that an employer has many duties to fulfill, and that these may be more extensive and complex than the duties of an employee.  The reason for this is that work was made for man and not man for work, because “as a person, man is therefore the subject”[8] and “purpose”[9] of work.  This fact must weigh heavily upon the employer when he makes decisions related to his workers, because these workers are more important than the work they can do.  It is with this mindset that we embark upon an examination and discussion of the duties of employers.

The greatest duty of an employer is to ‘respect concretely the human dignity of those who work within the company,’ who are ‘the firm’s most valuable asset.’

The greatest duty of an employer is to “respect concretely the human dignity of those who work within the company,”[10] who are “the firm’s most valuable asset.”[11] Apart from this, none of the employer’s other responsibilities can be fulfilled, because they are contingent on this primary duty.  Interestingly, the duties of employers relate to the rights of the workers just as, to some extent, the duties of workers correspond to the rights of their employers.  For example, employers are required to work against unemployment and provide unemployment benefits when necessary, for “the opposite of a just and right situation… is unemployment.”[12] Unemployment, or the lack of work for one who is capable of work and wants to do it, is harmful to man for several reasons already touched upon, and some not yet addressed.  These include the fact that man must work “because the Creator has commanded it,”[13] and that unemployment can lead to desperation, which often leads to grave evils.  Paul VI recognized the potential connection between contraception & abortion and unemployment, and stated that a family “has a right to the assistance which will assure it of the conditions for a healthy development.”[14] Related to this insight, let us keep in mind that the responsibility for unemployment benefits does not fall only on the employer, but also on the State.

[1] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 40.

[2] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 56.

[3] Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1.

[4] Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 19.

[5] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 9.

[6] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 10.

[7] John Paul II, Letter to Families, 2.

[8] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 6.

[9] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 6.

[10] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005), 344.

[11] John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 32.

[12] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 18.

[13] John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 16.

[14] Paul VI, Octogesimo Adveniens, 18.

Lord’s Prayer: Part IV

XI. “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us”

In our baptism, we were cleansed from all sin; however, because we have a broken nature, we still trespass on the goodness of God and others (sin). In this petition, then, we turn back to God and request his forgiveness; we ask our Father to be generous as was the father who forgave his son in the parable of the prodigal son (CCC 2839). Through our unity with Christ, we can be confident in his mercy. We humble ourselves before the Father and ask for his forgiveness; however, in this prayer Jesus teaches us a very valuable lesson. Love is indivisible, and so in order to love God we must also love our neighbors (CCC 2840). If we do not forgive others, then we have hardened ourselves and are not open to the grace that God wants to give us. “We cannot dare to ask God to forgive us if we are not ready to forgive others.[29]

In Luke, the word “debt” is used. We are always in debt to God, because of the sinfulness of our nature (condition).[30] In the beginning, God gave us everything; Adam tried to separate himself from God, and as a result our entire nature is disordered. God has never stopped pursuing us, but that does not decrease the debt that we owe him. Christians participate in God’s plan of forgiveness by forgiving even our enemies, thereby “transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master” (CCC 2844). In this, above all, do we seek a divine attitude and recognize with humility our unworthiness.

XII. “And Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

When we pray, often we pray this phrase without even thinking about it. When we do think about it, it does not seem to make sense. God does not “lead” us into temptation. Part of the difficulty in understanding this petition comes from the fact that meaning was lost in translation. The Greek word has two meanings: “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation” (CCC 2846). In this light, the petition here is a pleading for God’s protection in the face of temptation. Through this petition, we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to discern between trials and temptations. Trials cause growth in our souls and character, while temptations lead to sin (CCC 2847). The story of Job in the Bible exemplifies the maturity that can come through trials, and distinguishes between that and temptation.[31] We also find the grace to look beyond the immediate pleasure of the temptation and see the truth (CCC 2847).

Again, if our prayer is not followed by our actions to avoid temptation, we will be quite likely to fall into sin. In order to pray this truthfully, we must have made a “decision of the heart,” and we will receive the strength and discernment not to fall into sin (CCC 2848). We must always take care that our heart remains in the right place (CCC 2849), and we do not fall victim to the lies of pleasure. By never ceasing to pray against temptation, we can be assured that God will send us only the trials that will cause our maturity, decreasing our pride and increasing our faith, hope, and love.[32]

XIII. “But Deliver Us From Evil”

In this final petition, we implore the Father to deliver us from the evil one—Satan.[33] We always pray in unity with the whole Church for all the people of the world that they may also be protected from evil (CCC 2850). Satan is the one who opposes God and tries to interfere with his plan of salvation for man (CCC 2850). He is the “father of all lies” and does everything he can to deceive mankind (CCC 2852). Since Christ’s death on the cross, Satan’s power over the entire world has come to an end; however, he will still attack the Church and all of her offspring until Christ comes in glory (CCC 2853).

We unite ourselves in prayer to ask that we will be delivered from all evil, and pray for coming of the Kingdom. At the same time, we recognize our duty to work together for “breaking the predominance of ‘evils’”.[34] Finally, we recognize that God is our good and our end, and we demonstrate that we are his children.  With such trust, the devil cannot harm us.

XIV. Conclusion

When I pray the Our Father, I like to pray it very slowly, meditating on each rich phrase. Through this prayer, I encounter the love that Christ demonstrated for me; the more that I study, learn, and understand, the more I recognize this prayer as a necessity for daily life. In this paper it is only possible to give a brief summary of its richness—it is, after all, a summary of the entire Gospel.

In conclusion, the address draws us into a unique relationship with our Creator; he gives himself to us as our Father by the Spirit incorporating us into Christ, his Son. In the first three petitions, we seek to glorify God and work for our purification that his glory may be seen throughout the entire world. In the last four petitions, we ask him for our own needs, both physical and spiritual. Throughout the entire prayer, we pray for the coming of the Kingdom and never cease to work for the triumph of Christ in our own lives and in the world.

[29] Navarre U Theological Faculty, Universidad de Navarra, The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles
in the Revised Standard Version (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2000), 91.

[30] Navarre U Theological Faculty, Universidad de Navarra, The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles
in the Revised Standard Version (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2000), 91.

[31] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 162.

[32] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 163-164.

[33] Navarre U Theological Faculty, Universidad de Navarra, The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles
in the Revised Standard Version (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2000), 91.

[34] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 16.

Lord’s Prayer: Part III

VIII. “Thy Kingdom Come”

The most central theme in Christ’s teaching during his public ministry was the coming of the Kingdom, so the prominence of this petition is not surprising. When we pray for the Kingdom to come, we acknowledge the goodness of God, and his primacy.[20] We are not praying for a world that we ourselves would consider perfect, where we would never want and everyone gets along; but rather, we are praying for the order that only God can bring.[21] This requires justice[22] and wisdom to discern what is good for man. The Kingdom is veiled, yet present among us in sacramental ways.[23] Its presence is revealed in the Eucharist and will come in its fullness of glory at the end of time (CCC 2816). We live in the age where the Spirit is poured out to us and we join in the battle between the flesh and the Spirit (CCC 2819).

Christians have the obligation to “distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved” (CCC 2820). When we pray the Our Father, we gain the strength and discernment we need to fulfill this obligation as instruments in the hands of God for his Kingdom. This petition is primarily a call and longing for Christ to return in his glory at the end of time (CCC 2818), and is “taken up and granted in the prayer of Jesus which is present and effective in the Eucharist,” giving fruit in lives that are guided by the Beatitudes (CCC 2821).

IX. “Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven”

By praying this petition, at a very basic point we are recognizing that God has a will that is different from our own. What is this will? It is that he “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).  Therefore, he wills that we love one another as He has loved us; this encompasses his entire will (CCC 2822). Heaven is the place where there is no rejection of his divine will, and so it is present on earth when we follow it without reservation.[24]

Often, our “flesh” rebels, and we must bring it to obedience through suffering, as Jesus did. The Ten Commandments give us an application of the law that is written on our hearts (Jer 31:33), so that we can “translate them into life.”[25] Most importantly, we have Christ’s example, particularly in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Empty prayers will not result in our will being conformed to his, because he has given us free will to make our choice. Instead, when we freely follow his will and offer our efforts in prayer, we prove that we mean what we say and he supplies the necessary grace to continue. On our own, we are “radically incapable” of fulfilling his will, but united to Christ and the Holy Spirit we will learn perfect obedience (CCC 2825).

“By prayer we can discern ‘what is the will of God’ and obtain the endurance to do it’” (CCC 2826). We pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” both to discern his will and to gain strength; if we pray with fervor, our hearts will burn for the fulfillment of this petition, where heaven will come down to earth through the free obedience of all mankind to his will.

X. “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

This petition is the first of the “we” petitions, transitioning from asking God to glorify himself to placing our trust in him for our own needs. In giving us this petition, Christ shows that our material (“daily”) needs are “lawful”[26] and gives us confidence that our heavenly Father will provide for our needs. “Give us” also reminds us of the Covenant, and includes all people; we pray not only for ourselves, but for the needs of all (CCC 2829). The “bread” that we pray for signifies all of our needs, both material and spiritual. As in all the other petitions, we must work to reconcile our actions to our prayer; we are not to live a life of idleness, but work and trust that God will provide for us (CCC 2830). We are protected from worry, not responsibility. Also present in this petition is a reminder of our Christian responsibility to pray and work for those in the world who are hungry or suffering throughout the world (CCC 2831).

We are called to give from our abundance[27] out of love (CCC 2833), just as we have received everything as a gift from our Father (CCC 2834). We are reminded of the manna in the time of the Exodus, where they were given the bread from heaven and gathered enough to be filled, but were only to gather enough for one day (Exodus 16). Many times we receive the gifts through our work, but they are gifts that are not owed to us. The work and gifts that we receive are not only material, but spiritual. It is just as important (if not more so!) to work for the reduction of spiritual hunger in the world as for physical hunger; this petition also pleads for this hunger to diminish.

Most of all, the “bread” that is requested here is not just material and spiritual goods, but the reception of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. “…the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist” (CCC 2835). The early Church Fathers recognized this, and stressed its importance because without this food, our souls cannot stay alive.[28] The word that was translated “daily” (epiousios) exclusively appears in the New Testament in Luke and Matthew’s versions of the Our Father. It literally means “super-essential” and refers to the Eucharist (CCC 2837). “This day” is the day that Christ will come in his glory; a foretaste of this glory is given to us in the Eucharist that is celebrated each day (CCC 2837). In the Eucharist, Christ gives us himself as “our bread”, and we pray that all people may be united to him in the Church throughout the entire world.

[20] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 145.

[21] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 145.

[22] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 146.

[23] Scott Hahn, Understanding Our Father, (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2002), 28.

[24] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 147.

[25] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 148.

[26] Navarre U Theological Faculty, Universidad de Navarra, The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles
in the Revised Standard Version (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2000), 90.

[27] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 151.

[28] Navarre U Theological Faculty, Universidad de Navarra, The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles
in the Revised Standard Version (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2000), 90.