‘Our common home’: a challenge and an opportunity

This blog is written by Linda Jones, Head of the CAFOD Theology Programme. Linda shares her initial response to the Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

I have to admit that sometimes reading Church documents can feel more of a duty than a joy. But reading the new encyclical, Laudato Si’: on the care of our common home is a completely different experience.

I feel full of joy and excitement. I can sense possibilities, hope and new opportunities. Pope Francis draws a stark and troubling picture of reality, but also reminds us that change is possible and that we can work together to care for creation.

The choice to care for creation, rather than exploiting the earth for our own short-term gain, will demand that humanity itself must change. We can no longer live as if our actions have no consequences, nor can we continue to put economic growth and consumption above all else. We have not taken into account the costs to ourselves as humans of prioritising economic growth over human flourishing, nor have we sufficiently considered the cost to our environment.

“The climate is a common good,” Pope Francis writes, “belonging to all and meant for all.” And yet the earth, our sister, “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

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Continue reading “‘Our common home’: a challenge and an opportunity”

Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador

Denise is Diocesan Manager in Brentwood. She visited El Salvador in 2004 for the 15th Anniversary of the Martyrs of El Salvador. To mark the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero, she tells us how his legacy lives on in the people of El Salvador.

Denise from Brentwood
Denise, Diocesan Manager in Brentwood, visited El Salvador and was witnessed how Romero’s legacy lives on

When I first knew I would be visiting El Salvador I read a few books about the country – most recalling the conflict and the work of Romero and the Jesuit priests. I felt I was concentrating on the past and not finding out about the country now. It soon became clear that the conflict and Romero is still so entwined in daily life, that you couldn’t split the past from the present or the future.

Download prayers to celebrate the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

This is an excerpt from my diary, reflecting on a visit to where Romero was assassinated, the chapel of The Hospital of the Divine Providence

“We are welcomed into the small museum housed in the rooms Romero used when staying at the hospital. Shown around by a sister who had ministered to Romero after he was shot, it is sobering to meet people who so nearly lost their lives but for fate and to be part of history. Continue reading “Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador”

Art and soul of Romero

Hugh Gibbons is a CAFOD volunteer from Bracknell in the Portsmouth diocese who has led several community art projects to spread the word about Blessed Oscar Romero’s life and legacy.

Hugh Gibbon in Bracknell
Hugh with one of his pieces of art in Bracknell

I think he’d smile. Art with its sleeves rolled up is how I like to think of my offbeat contribution to the tributes for Romero in an unplanned series of good-natured portraits seen by thousands of people – indoors and out. And there’s been a flow of good stories for the local press and beyond.

The starting point was a visit to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire four years ago. The Librarian Jan Graffius is also the conservator of Romero’s relics in the little museum in the Divina Providencia Hospital in San Salvador. Not bones, but telling items such as three pairs of socks, a manual typewriter, spare spectacles – and blood-stained vestments.

On Jan’s I spotted a small triptych of Romero’s life by an up-country artist. Something clicked. I’m not an artist. But painting on wood in blocks of bright Salvadoran colours seemed something I could have a go at – and many school and parish for that matter.

So I scaled up the familiar little CAFOD Memorial Cross as Romero 1.0 in our porch, to welcome all visitors.

Buy your own Romero cross

A cross for all weathers

Romero 2.0 quickly followed – but 2 metres high!  ‘Big Oscar’ was a present for St Francis of Assisi parish in South Ascot as a thank you for 50 years of CAFOD support. The cross was ‘ruggedized’ to withstand the weather in its setting on the outside of the church, so that all the passing public could enjoy and gain something from it. And there was room for Romero with trademark eyebrows and glasses.   Continue reading “Art and soul of Romero”

Oscar Romero: a man of God

By Monsignor Ricardo Urioste, Archbishop Romero’s Vicar General and close friend

Monsignor Urioste in the church where Romero was murdered
Monsignor Urioste in the church where Romero was murdered

One of my first memories of Archbishop Oscar Romero was when I accompanied him to Rome in 1977. I can never sleep on a plane, so when we arrived at around eight o’clock in the morning, I was thinking about sleeping for a while. Then somebody knocked at my door. I opened, and it was Bishop Romero. He said, “Do you want to go for a stroll?” I said, “Yes, we should. Let’s go!”

And so we went directly to St Peter’s Basilica. He entered the basilica, went to the altar of the confession and he knelt down. I knelt down with him. After something like five minutes, I stood up. I saw him in such deep prayer that I said to myself: “I have to follow this man because he is following God.”

The spirit of Christ

I was fortunate to work with Romero for another three years after this. He was a man of faith, a man of God, a man of prayer. There is a quotation in St Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:9 that says: “Whoever does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to me.” And I asked myself, what was this spirit of Christ? And I find three characteristics of Christ essential.

The first was Christ’s sense of praying – looking for God, his Father. Because even if Christ is God, he knows the Father is another person, different from him, so he talks to him every day. And the Gospel tells us how he got up early in the morning and went to the mountain to pray or passed the whole night praying.

Find prayers inspired by Romero

The second characteristic of Jesus is his preaching of the Kingdom of God, based on love for everybody, even for those who don’t like him and make difficulty for him.

The third one is his closeness to the poor. He was close to the poor; to the blind, to the lepers, to the people who needed him. Continue reading “Oscar Romero: a man of God”

Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent

Nathaniel and Remi are CAFOD young leaders and students at St Joseph’s College, Reading. They tell us about their experience at Flame2.

Nathaniel and Remi with other CAFOD young leaders at Flame2
Nathaniel and Remi with other CAFOD young leaders at Flame2

As we progress through the season of Lent, it is important that as Catholics we take the time to reflect on how we can contribute to our community.

The CYMFed Flame2 event at Wembley Arena earlier this month was an opportunity to reflect along with thousands of other young Catholics. You could feel the presence of God in the hearts and minds of everyone as we gathered to kindle the flame of Christ.

Aged 11-18 and want to express your faith?

As we took to our seats, the event roared into life with uplifting and exciting music by liturgical dancers and double-Grammy award winning songwriter Matt Redman. Thousands of pinpoints of light from the mobile phones of the audience shone around the arena, as everyone joined together in musical worship.

Lighting the flames of our faith

CAFOD had prepared a series of lunchtime activities for us as young leaders to use to engage and inform people. During the balloon challenge, participants were asked to race each other to inflate the balloons the fastest, not knowing that one of the balloons had a hole pierced through it. The balloon with the hole symbolised how not all of us have equal opportunities in life, because many people are born into areas which are disadvantaged by the climate, resources or political systems. CAFOD young leaders also contributed to getting #Flame2 trending on Twitter, by sharing photos of activities and of friends wearing the One Climate, One World heart costume. Continue reading “Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent”

My life in Aleppo – A mother’s story

Mariana works for a CAFOD partner in Syria, providing life-saving food and emergency supplies to people who continue to be torn apart by the four year conflict. Read her story.

Fear and worry are my constant companions, never leaving my side when I’m at home or when I go to work. This is because of the continuous deadly shelling. You never get use to that sound, its power and then the haunting silence afterwards, followed by the cries of the injured.

CAFOD Syrian mother
Mariana

About the author: Mariana works for a CAFOD partner in Syria, providing life-saving food and emergency supplies to people who continue to be torn apart by the four year conflict.

Two years ago I was sitting on our balcony with my daughter, singing many songs, when suddenly we were rocked by a powerful explosion. We froze. I watched my daughter’s face grow paler and paler, and then we heard the screams of a woman. The shell had landed on the pushchair of her two-year-old daughter, and her husband’s leg had been blown off.

So when I go to work, I ask myself, “Will I reach my job safely today?”

I’m 37 years old. I married in 2010 in Aleppo, and have three children, two daughters and a baby son. In 2012 my husband lost his job – the factory where he was working was destroyed in the fighting. So now I am the breadwinner for my family, employed as an aid worker, with one of CAFOD’s partners in Syria.

Please keep supporting CAFOD’s long-term work and sign up to our direct debit for our Lent appeal. Your first three months will be matched by the UK government.
Continue reading “My life in Aleppo – A mother’s story”

International Women’s Day: “There won’t be peace without inclusion or equality”

Carmenza Alvarez, human rights defender
Carmenza Alvarez, human rights defender with Women’s Initiative for Peace. (Credit: Mark Chamberlain)

Carmenza Alvarez is a human rights defender in Colombia and works for an organisation supported by CAFOD and Caritas, Women’s Initiative for Peace. The role is a dangerous one, in 2014 alone 614 human rights defenders were attacked and 55 killed.

For International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March, Carmenza discusses inequality and being trapped in the middle of a fifty-year conflict. She recently spent time in Europe as part of a joint CAFOD, Caritas Colombia, ABColombia and EC project, which sought to help protect human rights defenders in Colombia, with a particular focus on land restitution claimants, women and minority groups.

Please pray for equality and peace

“In 1991 I was working in a restaurant. It was in an area frequented by the left-wing revolutionary group, FARC. My son was at school and studying. When he finished for the day, a group would come for him and supposedly take him to play football.

“One of the visitors to the restaurant, after about two months of this, came up to me and said, ‘Sister, I’m going to tell you something. They’re preparing your son for war. Save him.’ Continue reading “International Women’s Day: “There won’t be peace without inclusion or equality””

Lent: a time for compassion

By Rachel McCarthy, Theology Programme Communications Coordinator

Kyin Nu, Myanmar - cyclones and extreme weather

The season of Lent is fast upon us. It is time to prepare for the traditional acts of giving, praying and fasting, as we journey with Jesus through 40 days and nights.

Lent is a season of reflection and renewal. A time of growing in faith and looking deeper at our lives to be re-centred on God and our neighbour. A time to deepen our prayer life and to grow in faith. A time of giving and sharing with our global family.

Use our Lenten calendar to guide you through the daily scriptures of Lent.

Fasting during Lent

And then there is fasting. We might give something up such as chocolate, and we make a special effort on Fridays to abstain from the goods we usually take for granted. A few times I have fasted for 24 hours during Lent. Last year for example, I fasted in solidarity with people in the UK who are living on the breadline and are forced every week to go to food banks to feed their families.

I have to admit, for me, fasting is never easy. Although food poverty is an issue close to my heart, I found it very difficult to stay focused during these 24 hours. I found myself being more tired and irritable with others around me. I was tempted to winge, to draw attention to myself, in the hope that others would feel sorry for me.

But this is precisely the temptation which we must avoid. In the long hours of our fasting, we must wrestle with our demons, and stay focused on God. In a very real sense, fasting is the act of emptying ourselves, so that we can turn away from all that separates us from loving God. It’s a time of trial, when we rekindle patience and hope for the resurrection. Continue reading “Lent: a time for compassion”