Q&A: How to maintain your faith during these challenging times

Dr. Janet Smith to give talk at St. John Paul II Lecture Series March 10

Denver Catholic Staff

The challenges the Church faces today come not only from the surrounding culture that is increasingly hostile to it, but also from within. The sexual abuse crisis and the present confusion and disagreement about doctrine has made it hard for many Catholics to retain or strengthen their faith.

Dr. Janet Smith, recently retired professor from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and A Right to Privacy, will speak about this topic at the St. John Paul II Lecture Series in Denver March 10. Her talk will seek to bolster the determination of Catholics to remain in the Church and even encourage others to join it.

The Denver Catholic spoke with her regarding this topic ahead of her talk.

Denver Catholic: We live in an increasingly post-Christian society. What can we as Christians and Catholics do to help turn the tide?
Dr. Janet Smith: The obvious answer is that we need to become as thorough Christians and Catholics as possible and that means praying a lot, reading Scripture regularly, receiving the sacraments, becoming knowledgeable about the faith, and discerning how God wants each of us individually to work to bring about the Kingdom. Some will be called to turn their attentions largely to forming their own family in the faith, others to serve the poor, others to be activists for NFP, pro-life, etc. We need to make sure that our young people know the dangers of socialism, seductive for its calls for social equality but extremely threatening for its hostility to religion and tendencies to totalitarianism.

DC: Besides the scandals within the Church, there are a myriad of other cultural issues Christians have to contend with (i.e. same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.). How can Christians better navigate these complex issues?
DJS: Again, we must become very informed about these issues. There is an abundance of good materials easily found on the internet. Parents should homeschool if at all possible to protect their children from indoctrination. And even there they need to address these issues with their children by explaining the principles that inform Church teaching on these topics. Parents whose children attend public or even diocesan schools need to be vigilant about how advocacy of these issues may be being promoted in the schools. They need to be sensitive to how “unloving” opposition to same-sex relationships and transgenderism seems to young people and learn how to present information to them that will help them see the harms intrinsic to both.

DC: How can Humanae Vitae help the Church to defend the truths of the faith when it comes to human sexuality?
DJS: Humanae Vitae remains an indispensable document for the truths about marriage and sexuality it contains and for its prophetic power. And, of course, St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, an extended defense of Humanae Vitae, provides an in-depth, biblical explanation of God’s plan for sexuality based on the claim that our very bodies demonstrate that we are meant to love and to be loved and to live lives of complete self-giving. Sexual intercourse belongs only within marriage because only within marriage can sexuality express true affirmation of one’s spouse – an affirmation which includes unconditional faithful lifetime love that embraces the tremendous shared project of cooperating with God in bringing forth new human life.

DC: In what ways can Catholics and other Christian denominations better cooperate to become a stronger united front against the persecution of Christians?
DJS: First, the bishops and leaders of other congregations need to alert the laity to the amount and kinds of persecution happening in foreign countries and the increasing threats within our own. Clearly they need to meet with each other and devise some plans – likely co-authored statements and jointly sponsored conferences that hopefully will lead to a more informed public that will lead to more galvanized public officials and providing help for refugees from religious persecution. We should be prepared to become fearless opponents to evil and even martyrs. Watching movies such as A Man for All Seasons, A Hidden Life and The White Rose should help. We should become very familiar with the message of Fatima.

DC: Do you have any words for discouraged Catholics who are considering abandoning the faith?
DJS: I believe the Church is in one of its worst crises ever: news of sexual abuse of minors, priests leading double lives, embezzlement and luxurious living, cover-up of crimes and doctrinal confusion — among other forms of corruption — are overwhelming Catholics. We need to be honest and not refuse to acknowledge the extent of corruption. It is natural to wonder what kind of Church we belong to. But surely Christ knew His Church would experience such corruption. Our job now is to do what we can to purify the Church, not to leave the Church. We need to double down on our own faith life — we need to increase our dedication to prayer, both for good priests and bad priests, sacrifice, and reception of the sacraments. We need to see this time as a very curious blessing — even as a time to be more zealous evangelists. We need to make it clear to ourselves and others that we are committed to this Church because nowhere else can we find the sacraments and the richness and soundness of doctrine taught by the Church.

St. John Paul II Lecture Series
“How to Maintain your Faith During These Challenging Times”
By Dr. Janet E. Smith
March 10, 2020
7 p.m.
RSVP at archden.org/lecture

COMING UP: Church and state partner to carry out corporal works of mercy during pandemic and beyond

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In times of great need and crisis, we find strength in unity and collaboration, and amid the coronavirus pandemic, this truth remains within the Archdiocese of Denver.

For many years, the Archdiocese of Denver and local Colorado government officials have found ways to work together toward common goals and better serve the people of Colorado, which often includes carrying out corporal works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. And through the COVID-19 pandemic, these partnerships continue to be a crucial part of Colorado’s and the Church’s response to those in need.

The City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have a history of partnering to support people in need. During the pandemic, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his administration have worked with the archdiocese to safeguard the homeless population and extend testing for COVID-19 to communities at higher risk of struggling with the virus.

“These types of true collaborative relationships really make the difference because you can call on your partners [and] you have established relationships that are built on trust and built on true engagement and true focus on a mutually agreed upon mission,” Mayor Hancock told the Denver Catholic. “Catholic Charities and the archdiocese have been just tremendous partners over the years with us.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver told the Denver Catholic that “the Catholic Church is motivated to care for the poor and needy by Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us.

“The coronavirus pandemic,” he added, “has highlighted this important work and underscored the essential role the Catholic Church plays in fostering a society that upholds the God-given dignity of every person.

“It has been a blessing to be able to work with the City of Denver over many years to serve these vulnerable populations.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and the Archdiocese of Denver have partnered with Mayor Michael Hancock and the City of Denver in the past to better serve people in need, and they’ve continued those collaborative efforts through the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Recently, on July 10 and July 23, Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver hosted events in partnership with Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello to provide testing for COVID-19 and a mobile food pantry to the local community.

“We have been looking for opportunities to be in the communities, to do the testing, to meet people where they are. And we recognize that Latinos and African-Americans in particular have been most vulnerable to this virus,” Mayor Hancock said. “We needed to really just make sure we took the opportunities for testing to those communities.”

Then, on Aug. 6, Ascension hosted another event in collaboration with the City of Denver where the mayor’s office gave away free backpacks with school supplies, healthy food baskets, baby products, feminine hygiene products and more.

“I am very thankful for Mayor Hancock’s collaboration to help the people of Montbello,” said Father Dan Norick, pastor of Ascension Parish. “I also thank God for the people in Montbello who are caring for each other in these difficult times. May Jesus be praised!”

Mayor Hancock said that hosting these events at Ascension Parish made sense because of the established relationship the City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have developed over the years.

“When you’re looking for who you partner with during these opportunities, you turn to who’s most familiar with you and who you’ve had a trusting collaboration with,” he said. “And it just so happens the archdiocese and the parish there have been the ones that we’ve worked with over the years. So it was very natural. It’s a place where people are familiar and a place they trust.”

It’s not only during the pandemic that this partnership has been fruitful, though. A strong partnership between Samaritan House and the city has existed for quite some time, and this relationship has borne much fruit over the years. Samaritan House strives to be more than a just a homeless shelter, providing education, life skills classes and one-on-one support for its residents to empower them to break free from the cycle of poverty and support themselves independently.

In August 2017, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver cut the ribbon on the first all-women’s shelter in the city. Called Samaritan House Women’s Shelter, it follows Samaritan House’s established model of helping those experiencing hard times find a way out of poverty and ultimately, bring hope to their lives. Each night, it offers 225 beds for women who are in need of immediate shelter.

Back in April, Catholic Charities teamed up with the City of Denver and took the lead on an auxiliary women’s shelter set up at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Back in April, in response to the pandemic and out of a need to maintain social distancing protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver partnered to set up the Denver Coliseum as a 24/7 auxiliary emergency women’s shelter that’s that was able to accommodate up to 300 women. Catholic Charities staff took the lead at the shelter with full support from the City of Denver. The auxiliary shelter has since returned to the regular women’s shelter facility, but this collaboration between the city and Catholic Charities was crucial as cases of COVID-19 climbed in April.

“When the pandemic hit, Catholic Charities had to find a way to social distance the ladies in its Women’s Emergency Shelter,” said Mike Sinnett, Vice President of Shelters and Community Outreach. “We also had to provide them 24/7 care to honor the governor’s Stay-at-Home order and triage for the virus. Working with the City of Denver staff, we came together as a shelter community and obtained the use of the Denver Coliseum downtown. We were able to better provide social distancing, 24/7 shelter with three meals a day and other amenities, including showers and case management.

“We believe this effort with the city protected our most vulnerable community and helped prevent the spread of the virus. But more importantly, we made it safer for women experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.”

Featured image: Father Dan Norick hands out supplies during a community giveaway event hosted at Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello in conjunction with the City of Denver. (Photo provided)