Resources for the Day of Prayer for Peace

On Friday, September 9, 2016, the Church in the United States will observe a special day of prayer dedicated to peace and justice in our communities and in our nation.

In announcing the Day of Prayer, USCCB president Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said that the event was intended to help the faithful “look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”

I compiled the following list to help the faithful participate in this Day of Prayer by coming together as families, parishes, and disciples to unite our hearts and minds with those of Jesus Christ.

Suggested Activities

Liturgy and Prayer

  • Celebrate the Memorial of St. Peter Claver
    • Recommended use of Common of Holy Men and Women: For Those Who Practiced Works of Mercy
  • Celebrate the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
    • Readings in the Lectionary for Mass nos. 887-891
  • Use USCCB’s “Prayer of the Faithful for the Day of Prayer For Peace in Our Communities”:
  • Use a “Prayer Service to be Disciples on Mission”:
    • Especially appropriate for parish councils, school boards, and other parish meetings on or near the Day of Prayer
  • Host a Holy Hour or Rosary for the intentions of the Day of Prayer
  • Pray St. John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Adult Faith Formation

  • Insert the two page “Disciples on Mission in the World” in the parish bulletin:
  • Host an adult faith formation series utilizing Bishop Edward  K. Braxton’s pastoral letter “The Racial Divide in the United States”
  • Host an adult faith formation series utilizing “Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples”
  • Distribute prayer cards promoting peace and reconciliation
  • Start a book discussion connected to themes of justice and mercy (see bibliography below)

Catholic Schools and Youth Catechesis

  • Design a prayer collage containing images related to peace and social justice
    • Hang the collage in the classroom and remember these issues in prayer
  • Create a prayer chain or prayer tree with a different petition written on each link or leaf; pray for these intentions
  • Promote the Works of Mercy by distributing the Missionary Childhood Association’s handout “The Works of Mercy for Kids”:
  • Discuss the life and ministry of notable saints who worked for peace and justice, such as St. Peter Claver, St. Katherine Drexel, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (to be canonized on September 4), or St. Damien of Molokai
  • Learn about St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas, or another saint who loved to pray
  • Learn and pray Pope Francis’ “Five Finger Prayer”:
  • Invite a deacon to come and talk about the charitable ministries of the Church
  • Incorporate special activities into youth and teen formation events
  • Collect food, clothes, toiletries, and other items to benefit a local charitable organization
    • Discuss with students how our acts of charity are a response to our faith in Jesus
    • Pray over the items before they are sent to the organization

Ecumenical Activities

  • Hold an ecumenical prayer service for justice and peace
    • Suggested scripture: readings from Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice (Lectionary for Mass nos. 887-891)
  • Organize and publicize ringing of church bells on September 9 at 3:00pm EST as a sign of solidarity
  • Organize a panel discussion on ways to promote economic welfare, racial justice, and peace
    • Consider inviting local civic officials, leaders from other Christian traditions, and administrators in Catholic education and healthcare


Church Documents and Statements


Web Resources

Forming Intentional Disciples in the Parish

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to record a video session for the USCCB’s Diocesan Educational and Catechetical Leadership Institute. The video, “Forming Intentional Disciples in the Parish,” is now available.

The session includes a few handouts to download; you can access the slides and discussion questions as a PDF file. The other handouts are available in the video session.

Thank you to Michael Steier and the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis for the invitation to record this video session. It was a lot of fun to produce!

Publishing Under Creative Commons: A Primer for Parishes and Dioceses

Last week the Catholic Twittersphere erupted when both the Vatican and the USCCB demanded that blogger Brandon Vogt remove e-book versions of Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei from his web site. Brandon had converted the encyclical into a variety of formats, including Kindle, iPad, and Nook, and was making them freely available so that people could access the pope’s writings on their device of choice.

My purpose here is not to defend either party; rather, I’d like to ask why the Church’s treasure of teachings, chant, liturgical texts, and other works are so tightly controlled when there are catechists, bloggers, and media producers who would gladly make use of them to further the Church’s mission of evangelization. That these resources remain unavailable to the Christian faithful in their apostolates constitutes a great disservice to the work of catechesis and evangelization. It’s hard not to get the impression that some in the Church are more concerned with asserting copyright than spreading the Good News.

Fortunately there is a solution that would both allow the Church to maintain copyright of its works while allowing the faithful to make use of them in the mission of evangelization: the Creative Commons license.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons (CC) is a standard for creating licenses allowing others to use your copyrighted works. In other words, you give permission for others to use your created works (be it text, images, sound, or video) under specific conditions set by you. As an example, I post everything on this web site under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. That means that anyone may copy my blog posts or images that I create for my site and edit them for their own purposes, provided that they a) attribute me at the original creator and b) do not sell the resulting work or otherwise make money off it.

The four main conditions typically attached to CC licenses are

  • Attribution (the licensee must attribute the original creator)
  • NonCommercial (resulting works may not be sold)
  • NonDerivative (the original work may not be altered or edited)
  • Share-Alike (you can edit the work but must release your creation under the same CC license)

Creators can mix and match the conditions they put on works; CC does not require that all four be used.

It is important to note that a CC license does not negate or otherwise replace copyright. The original creator retains the copyright to their work. Rather, CC is designed to sit along side — and, in fact, relies on — traditional copyright law. It is merely meant to allow others access to the work under the conditions of the CC license.

Why Publish Under Creative Commons?

Publishing under a CC license allows creators to retain the copyright to their works while ensuring that the works may be used by others. In the case of Church documents, this would keep the copyright with the USCCB or Holy See while allowing the faithful to use the Church’s treasury of teachings in catechetical handouts, blog posts, mobile apps, online videos, study guides, and other media.

Utilizing the CC model recognizes that the information and resources produced by the Church are not useful if they cannot be easily shared. The internet and related digital tools have created an environment in which it is able — and indeed expected — that text, audio, and video will be readily accessible and available for editing and sharing. A whole generation of young Catholics, such as Brandon, is already experimenting with new media tools in evangelization efforts. The more the Church can support these efforts the more enthusiastic evangelists it will foster.

Indeed, the USCCB already does this (although not under the Creative Commons name) for many of the resources available on their web site. For instance, the 2013 Catechetical Sunday materials contain this disclaimer:

Copyright © 2013, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to duplicate this work without adaptation for non-commercial use.

This is essentially a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivatives license. It allows others to copy the material without alteration for noncommercial use. I’ve reproduced some of these articles in my office’s catechetical newsletter (which is itself released under a CC license) thanks to the permissions granted by the USCCB.

Switching from the generic permission disclaimer above to a CC license would be a powerful signal by the USCCB that it not only allows but actively encourages Catholics to copy and distribute the resources that the faithful, through their generosity to the Church, have funded.

How to Add a Creative Commons License

Once you’ve decided to publish a work under a CC license it’s simply a matter of using the Creative Commons web site’s handy tool ( to choose the appropriate license for the work. The tool includes the relevant text and images to add to the work to ensure that the license is clear; these can be copied and posted directly from the Creative Commons site.

For most Church-related works an Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivatives license will address the most common concerns. This license allows others to copy the work in its entirety and without edits, and redistribute it for free while given proper attribution. A better choice, however, would be an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. This license allows others to edit the work so long as they freely share the resulting work under the same license. This arrangement would have allowed Brandon to reformat Lumen Fidei into different electronic formats without violating the terms of the license.

In either case, as stated above, the creator retains the copyright to the work.

Parishes and dioceses should consider using a Creative Commons license when they create a variety of works, including

  • blog posts
  • catechetical aids
  • online videos
  • original music compositions
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • homilies
  • podcasts

Of course relevant local or diocesan policies should be followed. But it is my hope that more and more pastors, bishops, lay directors, composers, artists, and other Catholic media creators will recognize the value of using the Creative Commons to ensure that the faithful have access to the official teachings of the Church for use in evangelization and catechesis.

Review: New Online Catechism of the Catholic Church

In case you missed it last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a new online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). This is something that has been a desperate need — while there have been work-arounds for making a robust online catechism available, having an official version from the bishops is a very positive step forward in the USCCB’s social media and technology initiatives. Is this version everything we could have hoped? No, but it’s pretty good. Here’s some specifics.


The online Catechism has a simple layout: a table of contents on the left, hyper-linked to the headings. It’s a pretty long list; a collapsible menu structure may have been preferable, but also would have made it harder to browse to find the section you’re looking for. A nice touch includes alphabetical links to sections in the Glossary and Index.

On the right side of the screen is the text of the Catechism itself. It’s wide enough to be readable without onerous amounts of scrolling. The headers and paragraph numbers are set off from the text and in bold type, so they are easy to scan. All in all it’s a very readable presentation of the text.

Of course there is room for improvement. I know it would have added work, but I would have loved to have seen the footnotes hyper-linked to their respective texts. At the very least the biblical citations should link to appropriate section of the USCCB’s online New American Bible — this would go a long way towards making a true online reference.

Another major drawback is that, from what I can tell, there is no easy way to link to specific sections of the Catechism. Browsing through the Table of Contents doesn’t change the URL. You can right-click and copy the URL from the links in the Table of Contents, but that only takes you to the text of that particular section without the search bar or Table of Contents. Bloggers and other online evangelists will find it difficult to point people to specific citations; hopefully this feature will be added in a future update.


The most important aspect of the online Catechism is its search capability. How does it work? Remarkably well! The search bar is always accessible at the top of the page and returns searches quickly. Ten search results are returned on the right, with two lines from the revelant  paragraph  displayed. Clicking on the title of the paragraph brings a popup with the whole paragraph and a “read more” link to the paragraph within the Catechism.

The one drawback is that the search only recognizes whole words; “episco” won’t find any matches, but “episcopal” will. I hope this will be updated in a future version so that we can search for word roots as well as whole words. But that’s a pretty minor quibble.


Of course, in today’s day and age, you have to develop for mobile. I checked out the online Catechism on my Motorola Droid Pro and my office’s iPad. The phone worked better than I expected. I oriented the phone in landscape and had to zoom into the right side in order to read the text comfortably, but not so much that it cropped the text on the left or right. The book looks great on the iPad in portrait but especially in landscape. I suspect that this will become my favorite way to access the site.

That having been said, the fact that the Catechism  still isn’t available as a standalone app is maddeningly frustrating,  especially  for those of us who live and minister in rural dioceses. When I’m in Quincy — one of the major population centers of our diocese — I have no 3G connection (thanks to Verizon’s less than stellar coverage) and so I have no way to access the Catechism in a parish unless they have wi-fi (which very few parishes do). There is a  huge need for a completely downloadable Catechism app for iOS and Android that contains the layout and search capability of the online version. The new online Catechism can only be viewed as a stop-gap  measure  until such an app is available and I hope that the USCCB is working diligently and swiftly to make that happen.

Bottom Line

When I heard last month that the USCCB would be launching a new online Catechism of the Catholic Church (and has plans to launch the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults) I was skeptical. I intentionally kept my expectations low so as not to be disappointed. Thankfully the USCCB has given a great resource that, while not perfect, goes a long way towards making the Catechism more accessible and user-friendly. A Catechism and New American Bible app — or better yet, making those texts available to app developers — must be the next step to truly make these foundational documents available to a 21st century audience.

“Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!”

I have been pondering for the past two days Archbishop Dolan’s presidential address at the USCCB General Assembly on Monday. If you haven’t read it, I heartily recommend the entire thing. (You can also watch the address on the USCCB web site; it’s in the first video at about the 39:30 mark.) The whole address is an eloquent reflection on the state of the Church in America while highlighting the archbishop’s deep spirituality and wit.

If you don’t have time to read ten PDF pages, here are some of my favorite quotes:

One thing we can’t help but remember, one lesson we knew before we got off the plane, train, or car, something we hardly needed to come to this venerable archdiocese to learn, is that “love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!”

Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth, to restore the luster, the credibility, the beauty of the Church “ever ancient, ever new,” renewing her as the face of Jesus, just as He is the face of God. Maybe our most urgent pastoral priority is to lead our people to see, meet, hear and embrace anew Jesus in and through His Church.

. . . . .

Our world would often have us believe that culture is light years ahead of a languishing, moribund Church.

But, of course, we realize the opposite is the case: the Church invites the world to a fresh, original place, not a musty or outdated one. It is always a risk for the world to hear the Church, for she dares the world to “cast out to the deep,” to foster and protect the inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; to acknowledge the truth about life ingrained in reason and nature; to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never to stifle the liberty to quench the deep down thirst for the divine that the poets, philosophers, and peasants of the earth know to be what really makes us genuinely human.

. . . . .

The Church we passionately love is hardly some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy, silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement.

The Church is Jesus — teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often “bruised, derided, cursed, defiled.”

The Church is a communio, a supernatural family. Most of us, praise God, are born into it, as we are into our human families. So, the Church is in our spiritual DNA. The Church is our home, our family.

. . . . .

We who believe in Jesus Christ and His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more! The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds us precisely how much we need the Church. The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse, but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the sacramental life of the Church.

Like Him, she, too, has wounds. Instead of running from them, or hiding them, or denying them, she may be best showing them, like He did that first Easter night.

Photo by Gun Powder Ma/Wikipedia

Abortion and the Art of Making Distinctions

One of my “dirty little secrets” is that, when I lived in St. Louis, I enjoyed listening to the Lutheran (LCMS) radio station in town — particularly the show Issues, Etc. (which has since moved to another station in town for reasons that have been well-chronicled elsewhere). While I didn’t always agree with the show I appreciated their clarity of thought and courage in addressing current events from a Christian perspective.

I also came to appreciate the Lutheran definition of theology as “the art of making distinctions.” This is an art that is, sadly, lacking in much of what passes for discourse today. This is especially true in conversations around pro-life issues. Others more eloquent than I have bemoaned the distillation of various policy positions into the tidy packages of “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” implying that Americans fall into one camp or the other without nuance.

Two recent surveys make some important distinctions that rarely filter through the pervasive “pro-life”/”pro-choice” dichotomy. The first, conducted last fall for the Knights of Columbus by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, shows that only 8% of Americans favor totally unrestricted access to abortion. In fact, while 50% of Americans label themselves as “pro-choice,” 84% of all Americans believe that abortion should be restricted (either within the first three months; in case of rape, incest or for the mother’s health; or never permitted).

A new USCCB poll came to similar conclusions, finding that “four out of five U.S. adults (82 percent) think abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11 percent) or would limit its legality.” It also found that 95% believe that abortions should only be performed by licensed physicians and 88% favor parental notification laws.

In a couple weeks I will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to take part in the activities surrounding the March for Life. This will be my first such pilgrimage and I am hoping to use the opportunity to a) engage and educate myself more closley with life issues, b) encourage the young people of my diocese to do the same and c) try to find out more about the gap between the political discourse surrounding abortion in this country and the actual held beliefs of Americans.

Please pray for me and all of us making this pilgrimage.

Novena for Faithful Citizenship

Today is the first day of the national Novena for Faithful Citizenship. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited Catholics in America to pray every week leading up to the November elections.

Through the Novena prayers and accompanying scripture readings, Catholics will be able to prayerfully reflect on the Church’s teachings on life issues, reconciliation, social justice and the dignity of the human person.

The Novena, which is based on the USCCB’s document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, is available in both print and mp3 formats and can be downloaded at