Jesuit Author Supports Spirit Day Activities

October 8, 2012

Father James Martin SJ

Renowned Jesuit author James Martin, SJ, has tweeted his support for Spirit Day, a national event where people will be wearing purple to show their support for LGBT youth who face bullying.

In anticipation of the event on October 19th, Fr. Martin tweeted the following message:

New campaign to end bullying against LGBT youth seeks  Catholic support : catholics4spiritday.wordpress.com

The WordPress address is a specifically Catholic effort to get individuals and organizations to participate in Spirit Day this year.   They are asking people and parishes to endorse the following statement:

We, the undersigned, pledge our support for Spirit Day. We pledge our support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who have been victims of bullying, so as to let them know that they are truly created in the image of God and they are loved.

“At the center of all Catholic social teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human person. The human person is the clearest reflection of God’s presence in the world; all of the Church’s work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God’s creative work and the meaning of Christ’s redemptive ministry.”

- The Challenge of Peace, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1983

As a symbol of our support, we pledge to wear purple to Mass on Sunday, October 14 at parishes across the country.

We believe that our Catholic faith provides a solid basis for standing up against bullying and working to ensure that our schools are safe for all students without exception. Catholic social teaching reminds us that bullying is wrong.

You can sign the pledge by clicking here.   Your parish can endorse the effort by clicking here.  A Twitter hashtag has been established for the event: #SpiritDay.

New Ways Ministry has endorsed Spirit Day, as well as the following national and regional Catholic groups:  the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Ministry with Lesbian & Gay Catholics, the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay MinistryDignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and  Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City.

Spirit Day is coordinated by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and has been successful in past years.

In addition to being culture editor at America magazine, Fr. Martin is a frequent contributor for CNN, NPR, Fox News, Time Magazine, and The New York Times. Fr. Martin also has the distinction of being the “Chaplain to the Colbert Nation” on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.   He is also the author of the popular spirituality books: My life with the Saints The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, and Between Heaven and Mirth.

While wearing purple on October 19th is the primary way to participate in Spirit Day,  many churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations will be preaching about the event on the Sunday preceding October 19th.  For other ways to get involved in preparing for Spirit Day, click here.

Let’s hope and pray that thousands of Catholic individuals, parishes, and organizations will take part in this event!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Colbert’s Chaplain on “Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity”

January 13, 2012

Fr. James Martin, SJ

Fr. James Martin, SJ,  is one of Catholicism’s leading spiritual writers and cultural commentators today, as well as one of the most sought-after Catholic conference speakers.  Arguably, he has the largest “pulpit” for young people in this country since he is known as “Stephen Colbert’s chaplain,”  appearing regularly as a guest on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

So when Fr. Martin speaks out on lesbian/gay issues, as he does from time to time, it is an event worth noting.  His latest contribution is a posting on America magazine’s blog.  Entitled “Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” the comprehensive examination muses on the idea that on the topic of lesbian/gay issues, Catholic leaders tend to forget an important half of church teaching.  Fr. Martin writes:

“. . . I’d like to turn our attention to another part of the church’s official teaching, something equally as valid.  It is contained in the very next line [of the Catechism], and is an important aspect of our tradition that is often overlooked. . . . : ‘The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’

What follows in the post is one of the most thoughtful examinations I have read of the words “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”  and how these concepts apply to lesbian/gay people. For example, in describing “respect,” Fr. Martin observes:

“One of the hallmarks of respecting a person, for example, is listening to him or her.  If a child interrupts an adult, or fails to listen to a teacher, the child may be told, ‘Show some respect.’  You would scarcely say that you respected a person if you showed no real concern for what they said, or, likewise, for their personal experiences.  So, to show real respect Catholics need to listen carefully to the experiences of gays and lesbians.”

In terms of  “compassion, ” he turns to Jesus as the model:

“To suffer with gays means to be with them, and to stand with them, in solidarity.  It means to be, and to be seen to be, on their side, battling “every sign of unjust discrimination.”  It means sticking up for them when others mock or belittle them.  It means reaching out in ways that might move us beyond our comfort zones.  It might mean finding ourselves mocked as a result.  It means aligning ourselves with them. That’s what Jesus did, after all.  Even more than that, it means showing the kind of love that Jesus shows for those on the margins—a special kind of love.”

And for “sensitivity,” he points out the skewed emphasis on sex that church leaders too often portray:

“Another area of sensitivity is the way that the church’s overall teaching on gays and lesbians (not just about activity but about individuals as well) is presented.  Or not presented.  Some Catholic leaders lead off with the “thou shalt nots” and never get to the “thou shalts.”  If all gays and lesbians hear about is the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage (to the exclusion of anything else about gays and lesbians), then it’s perhaps not surprising that many would report feeling rejected. . . . What a difference it would make if Catholic leaders could speak as often about the great contributions of gays and lesbians in the church, for example.  Or about treating gays with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’  Or if they raised their collective voices against gay suicide.”

I’ve only offered highlights here.  The entire posting is worth a thoughtful read. Too often, we only hear negative messages about LGBT people from church leaders and commentators.  It’s refreshing and uplifting to read something positive from one of Catholicism’s most respected writers and commentators.  Thank God for Fr. Martin!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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