Youth

Pope Francis Ministers to Young People 'In Crisis' in Brazil

Tyler Orsburn/courtesy Catholic News Service

World Youth Day pilgrims take video and photos at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro July 22. Tyler Orsburn/CNS

Pope Francis spent Tuesday resting following his arrival here in his first international trip as pope during which his car was mobbed by throngs of well-wishers who excitedly closed in on his convoy and prevented the pontiff from reaching his reception ceremony on time.

His arrival animated tens of thousands of young Catholics cramming the Rio city center, as they waved flags, chanted slogans, and swarmed the four-door Fiat he was riding in.

“It was so amazing when he was selected, we just couldn’t believe it. We cried and hugged one another,” Alicia Velazquez said. “I personally want to see if he’s still the same man as simple and humble whom we all knew. I have faith that he’s remained the same.”

Francis’ driver missed lanes that had been cleared on a boulevard, taking the car down a lane that was not lined with fencing and with no uniformed police in sight to control crowds.

Dozens of Vatican and Brazilian plain-clothes security officials had trouble keeping the crowds back but it did not appear to bother Francis. The bulletproof popemobile was left in Rome.

Francis rolled down his back-seat window, waved to the crowd, and touched those who reached inside. He kissed a baby a woman handed to him.

Christianity's 5 Most Popular Scapegoats

Scapegoat illustration, durantelallera / Shutterstock.com

Scapegoat illustration, durantelallera / Shutterstock.com

Within Christianity it’s easy to criticize. Here are some of the most common scapegoats:

1)  Conservative Fundamentalists

Christianity’s negative public image is — sometimes rightfully — blamed on these people. Perceived as being exclusive, resistant to change, addicted to power, and very aggressive, they’re characterized as anti-women, anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, and anti-evolution.

Ten years ago the top scapegoat would’ve belonged to ‘Progressive Liberals,’ but what a difference a few years make. Despite the dramatic change, we can often be guilty of blaming fundamentalists just as easily and unfairly as they used to blame others.

A Convenient target, we often use them as a punching bag. Many theologians, bloggers, pastors, and leaders have become obsessed with fighting and arguing against fundamentalists, and it ultimately becomes a distraction. It’s so easy to focus on those we disagree with that our entire faith becomes a set of reactions to our opponents instead of a life lived promoting the Gospel of Christ.

A Struggle for the Nation’s Moral Center

Court gavel with play letters, zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

Court gavel with play letters, zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

Sharletta Evans of Denver says it was her faith that motivated her to forgive the teens who killed her 3-year-old son, Casson, during a drive-by shooting. When she did, Evans says, she could feel the hate evaporate from her body. She has since developed a relationship with one of the young men, whom she hopes to see released from prison.

Minnesota’s Mary Johnson drew on her faith for the strength to meet with and forgive Oshea Israel, who was 16 when he killed Johnson’s 20-year-old son, Laramiun Byrd. Mary now considers Oshea, who lives next door to her, her spiritual son. The two now frequently speak together about anti-violence and the power of forgiveness.

And Mona Schlautman, whose 15-year-old son, Jeremy Drake, was kidnapped and killed in a park in Omaha, Neb., says her faith — plus her belief that it is good public policy — have led her to support changes in that state’s laws that would ensure young people who go to prison for serious crimes have meaningful opportunities to be considered for release after they have acknowledged what they did, asked for forgiveness and sought to make amends. She testified before the Pardons Board several times on behalf of Jeremy Herman, who at 17 was convicted of kidnapping her son. He was released from prison after 19 years.

Throughout the United States, people of faith are on the front lines of the effort to replace life-without-parole sentences for children with age-appropriate accountability measures that focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The Juvenile Justice Week of Faith and Healing is an annual event intended to engage faith leaders and further increase awareness of individual, community and social needs arising from the current juvenile justice system.

The Death of Cynicism

I know I’m cynical, but I didn’t know how dead I got inside.

It was easy to give up on the world. There are way better people than I failing to pull us out of our quagmire.

It was pretty easy to give up on the church too. Pick your disappointment....

So, like I said, I knew I was cynical, but I didn’t know I was about to die from my cynicism. Then I went to the Wild Goose Festival. I wasn’t healed there. Just the opposite. I was playfully wooed to mourn the passing of my younger self.

The Death of Darius Simmons and the Seeds of New Life

Darius Simmons. Photo courtesy of All Peoples Church.

Darius Simmons. Photo courtesy of All Peoples Church.

"Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." 
~ John 12:24

When tragedies loom so large, it is difficult to keep a perspective on the small things, to view things on a human scale.

We are trained to see the harvest and ignore the seed. We look at end results for the quick post and tweet. The planting, the watering, the tending is too tedious. Show me the aisles of glowing produce under the florescent lights and keep the dirt and the sweat away. Show me the abundance and not the labor.

And yet, every fruit and vegetable and grain begins as a seed. It begins in the smallest of things.

Soon, the story of Darius Simmons will become larger than life. A story that has picked up some media attention will no doubt soar – for a moment – as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH continue to walk with his family and call for justice. This is their work and their calling and I bless them for it. I am thankful for it.

Darius’ story is a sensational one – full of racial tension and violence. It is a refrain sung over and over in our nation, the dissonant chorus that reminds us of our nation’s original sin.

LifeBuilders: Help Rebuild Lives (and Souls) in Detroit with the Click of a Mouse

When Marilyn and Larry Johnson sold their computer business in suburban Detroit about a decade ago, they figured they'd settle into the next phase of their lives with ease. Retirement meant more freedom, fewer pressures and ample time on the golf course. But a life of leisure turned out to feel terribly hollow for the Christian couple.

"I remember coming in from a golf game and Larry asking me how my game was, and I just started crying," Marilyn told Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom recently. "I said, 'My life has no purpose.' "

So the Johnsons began volunteering at shelters, treatment programs and soup kitchens. On Thanksgiving eight years ago, they wound up serving turkey dinner to the homeless. It was a turning point.  An epiphany.

A Decade of War (and Football)

Afghan_village_patrol

Let’s face it — while lawmakers are picking their own battles in Washington, they aren’t fighting on the ground in Afghanistan. Winning elections has become more important than implementing winning foreign policy strategies that would end the war and bring our service men and women safely home.

And it’s my generation that’s being sacrificed.

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