A mission of love

The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September should be more than a vast Catholic “gathering of the clans” around Pope Francis—and so should the months between now and then. If the Church in the United States takes this opportunity seriously, these months of preparation will be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family: human goods whose glory is brought into clearest focus by the Gospel. Parents, teachers and pastors all share the responsibility for seizing this opportunity, which comes at a moment when marriage and the family are crumbling in our culture and society.

Now, thanks to a fine mini-catechism prepared by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family, we’ve been given a basic resource with which to do months of preparatory catechesis on marriage and the family—and preachers have been offered reliable material for shaping homilies on these great themes between now and September.

“Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive” (Our Sunday Visitor) begins by reminding us that the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and the family is not composed of “positions” or “policies,” a widespread misunderstanding today. Rather, the Church’s teaching about marriage and the family are expressions of the basic truths of Christian faith: God, who brought the world into being, loves us; the divine love is most powerfully displayed in God’s son, Jesus Christ; friendship with Jesus brings us into the communion of the Church, which is a foretaste of the communion with God for which we are destined; our basic task as Christians is to offer others the gift we have been given—friendship with the Lord, which we do both by witness and by proposal. Or as St. Augustine so memorably put it in the “Confessions,” we have been made for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in the divine embrace.

Nothing falls outside God’s creative and redeeming purposes, which include our being created male and female, the complementarity and fruitfulness built into our being created male and female, and the permanence of marriage, which is a sign of God’s own covenant fidelity. God is a communion of loving Persons; thus married love, St. John Paul II taught, is an icon of the interior life of the Holy Trinity. God keeps his promises; thus the promise-keepers among us who live the covenant of marriage bear witness to that divine promise-keeping by their own fidelity.

In light of all this, the Christian idea of chastity comes into clearer focus. In the Catholic view of things, chastity is not a dreary string of prohibitions but a matter of loving-with-integrity: loving rather than “using;” loving another for himself or herself. The sexual temptations to which the Church says “No” are the implications of a higher, nobler, more compelling “Yes:” yes to the integrity of love, yes to love understood as the gift of oneself to another, yes to the family as the fruit of love, and yes to the family as the school where we first learn to love. “Yes” is the basic Catholic stance toward sexuality, marriage and the family. We should witness to that “Yes” with a joyful heart, recognizing that the example of joyful Catholic families is the best gift we can offer a world marked today by the glorification of self-absorption.

In a pontificate that has reminded us continuously of our responsibilities to the poor, for whom God has a special care, preparations for the World Meeting of Families are also an opportunity to remind our society that stable marriages and families are the most effective anti-poverty program in the world. As demographer Nicholas Eberstadt wrote recently, “the flight from the family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young”—especially low-income children, who are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of family breakdown. That’s not Catholic carping; that’s basic social science data.

The Catholic idea of marriage and the family is a gift for the whole world. Catholics should gift that gift away, profligately, in the months ahead.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.