Candlelight vigil planned for students missing in Mexico

While protests have erupted across Mexico and parts of the United States after the disappearance and alleged kidnapping and death of 43 Mexican college students by corrupt government officials and a gang, Regis University will show support in a candle-lit procession beginning 6 p.m. Dec. 1.

“We want to bring awareness of what is happening to our sisters and brothers in Mexico,” said Jesuit Father Fernando Álvarez-Lara, associate university minister for liturgy at Regis University and an organizer of the event. “We acknowledge, yes the situation is bad, but we have to look at the light of Christ in all of us and discern as a community how we can be of help and support.”

The university welcomes the larger community to participate in the ecumenical procession titled: “From Darkness to Light: Walking with Ayotzinapa.” Participants will gather outside the university’s library on the Lowell campus in northwest Denver and walk toward the St. John Francis Regis Chapel.

The procession will be led with a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe—a symbol of Mexican identity and unity.

At the end of the procession, talks will be given by a writer, a teacher and an artist, all from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero where the students were allegedly ambushed on Sept. 26.

“We want to reflect on the situation and discuss what we can do,” Father Álvarez-Lara said. “As we enter the liturgical time of Advent, we need to pray for the grace to know how to wait for things to change for the better while acknowledging we desperately need divine intervention.”

Pope Francis has called for prayers for the missing students and condemned the political corruption and drug traffickers that may have led to the deaths.

Media reports state the students went to Iguala, a town south of Mexico City, on Sept. 26 to raise funds for a future trip to the Capitol. Investigators said the borrowed buses were stopped by police at the orders of the town’s mayor and his wife because they feared the students were coming to protest an event planned by the mayor’s wife.

Authorities arrested the couple Nov. 7 and said they handed the students over to members of the Guerreros Unidos gang who killed the students and burned their bodies. However, family members want an independent investigation and proof the students are dead.

The Mexican bishops’ conference issued a statement Nov. 7 in support of the families.

“Adding our voice to theirs and to all of society we say enough with so much corruption, impunity and violence,” the statement said.

Regis University is located at 3333 Regis Blvd. For more information, visit www.regis.edu or call the university Ministry Office at 303-458-4153.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.