Pope Francis, Vatican II show love for poor

Professor to discuss mission of Church, gift of Vatican II document

Nissa LaPoint

What does the Vatican II document “Gaudium et Spes” (“Joy and Hope”) and Pope Francis have in common?

Both emphasize a commitment to the poor and see the human dignity in every person, said Professor Douglas Bushman of the Augustine Institute.

In the next Archbishop’s Lecture Series April 8 on the John Paul II Center campus, Bushman will speak about the pontiff’s focus on serving the poor and recognizing the God-given dignity in everyone, in particular those neglected by a world that values productivity and defines fulfillment in terms of material prosperity, he said.

He offered a glimpse of his upcoming talk with the Denver Catholic Register.

Blessed Pope John Paul II once said Vatican II and its documents are like a gift the Holy Spirit gave the modern Church, Bushman shared.

“Well, people love to open gifts, so they should open up the documents of Vatican II and read them,” Bushman said. “When my students study these texts, they always express their surprise at how profoundly relevant, biblical and spiritual they are.”

“Gaudium et Spes” is no exception, Bushman said.

In this document faithful may find one of the greatest gifts—the answer to many of life’s deepest and most profound questions like the meaning and purpose of life.

This answer, he said, lies in Christ.

“The main point of ‘Gaudium et Spes’ is that Christ is the answer to all of the questions that people cannot avoid asking about the meaning and purpose of life,” Bushman said.

The document states, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”

And it’s precisely this message the Church wants to convey to people across the world. During his talk, Bushman said he will encourage faithful to help others discover the relevance of Christ’s life, teaching, mission and especially his death and resurrection.

This message can be kept alive.

He proposes raising these deepest questions of life among one’s neighbors.

Ask: “What is it that constitutes our ultimate fulfillment? What is love? What is justice? How can we make sense out of war and suffering? Why do I find it difficult to do what is good?”

This includes critiquing the modern world, he said.

“In families and among friends, Catholics should engage in a serious analysis of the news and discuss the issues of the day in light of faith. All of this will require a commitment to a life of prayer and examination of conscience,” Bushman said.

Bushman, who holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, moved last fall with his wife and family from Green Bay, Wis., to teach at the Augustine Institute.

He is the author of several articles and books including “The True Spirit of Vatican II” on Catholic World Report Online.  He also holds the Pope St. John Paul II Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization and specializes in spirituality, Vatican II, Blessed John Paul II and pastoral theology.

His talk will conclude the four-part series on Vatican II. Advance registration for the lecture is not needed; seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Archbishop’s Lecture Series
Speaker: Professor Douglas Bushman, S.T.L.
Topic: Gaudium et Spes and the Apologetics of Meaning: Christ is the Answer to All of Man’s Questions”
When: 7 p.m. April 8
Where: Bonfils Hall, John Paul II Center campus, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver
RSVP: not required
Questions: Call 303-715-3230 or email info@archden.org.


COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”