Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

Jan 1..World Day of Peace. How do you think peace and poverty are connected?

Each year, the Holy Father releases a statement on peace to celebrate the World Day of Peace. The connections between Poverty and Peace are the basis of this year’s statement for January 1, 2009.  The US Catholic Bishops have set up a website with ideas regarding peace and poverty.  Visit this website for links to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 World Day of Peace Statement and the US Bishops website to continue our work in poverty reduction and peace building.

What do you think are the connections between peace and poverty?  What ideas do you have to build peace?

Filed under: Culture, Economic Policy, Official Statements, Papal Teachings, Social Doctrine, Social Justice, Spirituality

EJ Dionne’s op-ed in WASH POST: Catholic Relief Services mentioned….

Living Their Faith in Afghanistan

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Thursday, December 25, 2008; A19


Each era depicts Jesus in its own way, and the late historian Jaroslav Pelikan wove a brilliant book around this theme. He traced images of Jesus from the earliest days of Christianity as “the rabbi” and “the king of kings” to more modern portrayals as “the teacher of common sense,” “the poet of the spirit” and “the liberator.”

The Jesus of Christmas, Pelikan tells us in “Jesus Through the Centuries,” owes a particular debt to Saint Francis of Assisi, who preached “a new and deeper awareness of the humanity of Christ, as disclosed in his nativity and in his sufferings.”

It was Saint Francis who, in 1223, set up the first creche in the Umbrian village of Greccio, depicting Christ’s infancy in the less-than-regal circumstances of the manger. Saint Francis founded a religious order that stressed liberation from the tyranny of material possessions and, Pelikan notes, the role of Christians as “strangers and pilgrims in this world.”

The world is still blessed with many actual Franciscans. But in our time, there is another community of “strangers and pilgrims” whose satisfaction comes not from accumulating material goods or political power. They are the relief workers and community builders lending their energy to the poorest people in villages and urban slums around the globe.

Many of them are motivated by religious faith, others by a humanistic devotion to service, but few who are in the trenches worry much about what their co-workers believe about an Almighty. These souls are among the happiest and most personally satisfied people I’ve encountered, suggesting that Saint Francis was on to something in preaching freedom from materialism.

Matt McGarry, at 30, has enormous responsibilities that he wears lightly. The coordinator of programs for Catholic Relief Services in Afghanistan, he has mastered many trades. His organization focuses on agriculture, water and education in places where the farms are very small, the water is often dirty and children, particularly girls, have never had the chance to go to school.

McGarry doesn’t think of himself as a saint or even as anything special. “I don’t pretend that my life is too arduous or difficult,” he says. “I get to work with incredibly intelligent, committed people. I’ll definitely be up to this for a while.”

Catholic Relief Services is, of course, a faith-based organization, but what’s striking is that the faith of its employees is inherent in what they do, not something they wear on their sleeves. McGarry says his co-workers are not in the field to preach Christianity, even if the fact that they are there bears witness to their faith. Indeed, in most Afghan villages, seeking converts among Muslims would be dangerous. The group avoids preaching the Gospel, and its Afghan staff is overwhelmingly Muslim.

McGarry explains: “We’re not in the business of getting people into heaven. We’re in the business of getting them out of hell.” That would be “hell” in the earthly sense, and it has a specific meaning in a country that has been ravaged by war for three decades.

Those who undertake the sort of work McGarry does are inevitably seen as idealists, but their passions are invested in highly practical undertakings: how to staff a school and protect its children; how to dig wells; how to improve production on small family farms; how to form cooperatives; how to market crops.

Underlying much of his group’s work, McGarry says, is a concern for improving the status of women, both by empowering them in the economy and by offering them educational opportunities they had been denied. He is struck, above all, by the passion of Afghan parents for the education of their children. When a threat arose to one of Catholic Relief Services’ schools, the villagers were indignant. “Nobody’s closing our school,” they told McGarry. “We don’t care if they kill us. We don’t care if they kill our children.” The threat was dealt with, and the school reopened.

It is strange how a faith that traces its origins to a stable, preaches love and demands good works is so often invoked to condemn, to divide and to denounce. “We tend to forget that charity comes first,” wrote Thomas Merton, the inspiring monk who died 40 years ago this month, “and is the only Christian ’cause’ that has the right to precedence over every other.”

McGarry and his co-workers understand those words and live by them. They represent, I suspect, what Saint Francis had in mind 800 years ago when he built his manger.

Filed under: Catholic Relief Services, consumerism, morals, Social Justice, Spirituality

Pope: Parties Can Be Organized, But Joy Is a Gift

ZE08122403 – 2008-12-24

Says It Has Been Given in Abundance


VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2008 ( Benedict XVI says that joy is a gift, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and that in this gift, all others are summed up.

This was one of the Pope’s reflections Monday when he met with the Roman Curia and other officials for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings.

“A party is an integral part of joy,” the Holy Father acknowledged. “And a party can be organized, but joy cannot.

“It can only be offered as a gift; and, in fact, it has been given us in abundance. That’s why we feel grateful.”

The Pontiff recalled how St. Paul lists joy among the fruits of the Holy Spirit and in the same way, St. John unites the Spirit and joy.

“Joy is the gift in which all other gifts are summed up,” the Bishop of Rome affirmed, just a few days before Christmas. “It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, something that can only be derived from being in harmony with God and his creation.”

And, he continued, “part of the nature of joy is spreading itself, having to be communicated.”

The mission of the Church, the Pope explained, “is nothing more than the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given us. May it always be alive in us, and then, may it irradiate to the world in its tribulations: This is my wish for the end of this year.”


Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Papal Teachings

Looking for that right gift for Christmas? Be “just” Consumers

Fair Traded gifts — art works, jewlry, chocolate, tea, coffee and more — are wonderful expressions of using your money to support local artisans and farmers while sharing a gift with that special person.

Visit Catholic Relief Services/SERRV for Fair Traded gifts.

See related story about coffee in Mexico…..

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Market Place

Check out Interview of Corbin by Tyler Clark

Filed under: Personal Reflections, Uncategorized