Tag Archives: Father Shenan J. Boquet

Living Christmas should last all year

Anyone who knows me – just ask my staff at HLI – knows I eagerly look forward to the season of Christmas and the wondrous, life-giving message it brings every year. While many do everything possible to celebrate Christmas, they often do so at the expense of why it is worth celebrating.

Shamefully, Christmas has been commercialized and the story of salvation history replaced with secular, nonreligious imagery and stories. With each successive year, the historic event of the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord, which has forever transformed human history, is celebrated less and less. Our eyes, hearts, and minds are systematically being averted away from the central teaching of Christmas: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christmas celebrates the birth of a Child into this world. This Child lived among us, leaving an indelible imprint. He existed in time – in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem. This is a reality that some choose to reject, but it cannot be denied. The Child in the crib we contemplate is the Redeemer of the world and of everyone in it. He came that we might have eternal life – to desire, look forward to, and possess after death: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the festivity and beauty of Christmas, to experience it in the richness and history of our cultures. I, too, love many things about the season: its music, decorations, food, social gatherings, and the generally joyous and charitable spirit the season encourages. The challenge, however, is to avoid being drawn into the superficial, consumeristic mentality and behavior associated with the secular culture’s definition of Christmas, which attempts to overload our senses and draw us away from Christmas’ true meaning and offering to humanity.

Christmas is a feast about Love and how Love entered human history. It is a holy time that invites us to reflect on the most profound issues in life, an occasion of spiritual renewal. Christmas invites us to stretch our hearts and minds and live the spiritual life extraordinarily and deeply. It helps us to nurture within ourselves that unconditional love for our brothers and sisters that the occasion symbolizes, always remembering “that for your sake He became poor although He was rich, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 2:8-9).

Sadly, we cannot deny we live in a world that no longer inspires us toward God and eternal life. Yet, with every Christmas comes a message of love, hope, and renewal that instills great joy in the human heart because the Mediator, Savior, and Healer came to redeem us. We rejoice because our Creator and Lord has taken on human flesh and begun His reign over our hearts, not only as God, but also as the Son of Man among the children of men – Emmanuel, God with us.

So, how does Christmas impact us? Are we being averted from faithfully living out the true meaning of Christmas? Do we do Christmas, treating it as many do in secular society? Or, do we embrace Christmas’ fundamental message and the profound opportunity it offers in reconnecting us with the One who came that we might have life? And, finally, will we simply pack Christmas away with the decorations, or will we live Christmas throughout the year?

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International (www.hli.org), and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

‘Putting on the armor of God’ is man’s ultimate calling

Professionals, like firemen, policemen, and military personnel, wear a distinctive uniform or insignia that helps us easily identify them. As for Christians, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul explains how Christians should live in the light of Faith and in relation to one another and society. Having been liberated by Christ, Christians are to offer their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” We are “not to conform to this age” (Romans 12:1-2); instead, we are called to be warriors – to live our faith with passion and conviction, virtuously, and in accord with God’s will.

Discipleship is faith expressed in real life, every day, in every way. We are to “let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) by shedding our “street clothes” – the habits of pride, rebellion, and sinfulness and put on “new clothing,” which represents a Christ-covered life.

“Man was created for greatness—for God himself, he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched” (Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI). Sadly, many Christians seek what is comfortable and extremely superficial; yet Christ calls us to something truly meaningful – to achieve greatness. “You are the light of the world,” says the Lord and “a city set on a mountain cannot be hidden,” so “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16).

In an address to German pilgrims in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that Jesus’ command to love requires hard work and is painful. “Christ did not promise an easy life,” noted the pope and “those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.” Discipleship implies a living relationship with Christ, in Whose life we are invited to share, love, serve, seek, and imitate.

The Father’s act of love in giving His Son defines the ultimate requirement of true love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19); thus, our love for Him is a response to His love for us. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” says Christ and “this is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). God’s love is perfected in us when we reproduce it in or among ourselves.

Holiness is the remedy which heals, transforms, strengthens, and produces an abundant harvest. “All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society” (Lumen Gentium, 40). Uniting our wills to God’s brings about the “fullness of Christian life” and “the perfection of love.”

Following Christ can be extremely hard at times, but our part is a daily effort to discipline ourselves and to strive for holiness as an athlete competing in games (2 Timothy 4:7). The Holy Spirit can transform us, stretch our hearts, enabling us to bear godly fruits (Galatians 5:22) and also assist us to give full witness to His transforming power, allowing us to say “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International (www.hli.org), and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Speak for every person, especially the dehumanized and minimized

As society incessantly gravitates towards secular ideologies, it becomes ever more desensitized to the inherent and inviolable dignity of the human person. Jesus’ teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) often and tragically falls upon deaf ears, leading to the spiritual blindness so prevalent in our cultures today. Like the rich man in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 16:19-31), many ignore the poor and downtrodden “Lazarus” at their “gate,” failing to recognize his inherent dignity. Society must be reminded that because we are made in the image of God – Imago Dei – every human life is precious and has inalienable and immutable dignity and value, without exception.

“If the right [to] life is an inherent and inalienable right,” says St. Teresa of Calcutta, “it must surely obtain wherever human life exists.” It is unjust, therefore, to deny, diminish, ignore, or deprive any human person of his or her fundamental human rights at any stage of life based on age, social status, health, or condition of dependency.

In a disposable society, the sanctity of human life is devalued. Its beauty and wonder are constantly under threat, especially at its beginning and end when it is most vulnerable. The violence of abortion destroys the lives of tens of millions of unborn children each year – a little over one million in the U.S. alone. Euthanasia grows more and more common as the value of the sick, elderly, and the disabled is minimized.

The “father of lies,” said Pope St. John Paul II, “relentlessly tries to eradicate from human hearts the sense of gratitude and respect for the original, extraordinary and fundamental gift of God: human life itself. 

Our task in defending and serving life, whether we are debating healthcare or the right to life, is to peel back the layers of obfuscation and deception and to show to the world what – or rather who – is at the center of the debate: the human person. And the second part of our mission is to speak for every person whose voice has been silenced or compromised. For as we know, when government or any legal authority is given the power to bestow these rights, then that same authority can choose to withhold them. 

Human life, no matter the circumstance, is a gift of immeasurable worth. It deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Human persons are not just individuals who serve our ends. They are ends in themselves. Each person, reflecting their God-given dignity, has basic rights and responsibilities that flow from our human nature, which cannot be negotiated or compromised regardless of any social or political structures. These rights are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his or her humanity and do not depend on the opinions or beliefs of anyone else.

At the heart of any discussion about universal human rights is the insistence that they apply to each and every human person, recognizing his or her inherent dignity. While godless and secular people try to dehumanize the human person, beginning in the womb, our task is to consistently and constantly keep the inestimable value of the human person and his fundamental rights front-and-center.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International (www.hli.org) and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Benedict’s legacy: charity and truth

Fr Shenan Boquet writes of Pope Benedict’s lasting legacy of charity and truth . . .

Father Shenan J. Boquet

Father Shenan J. Boquet

As the world waited eight years ago for the white smoke to emerge from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, millions wondered not only who the next pope would be, but also how anyone could possibly follow the man who was already being referred to as “John Paul the Great.”

Of course, we now know the answer. The shy and brilliant theologian, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, was selected by his brother cardinals, and his papacy was one of persistent and clear teaching about the love of Jesus Christ. The man we now refer to as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, followed his unfollowable predecessor, not by trying to be like him, but by placing his own substantial gifts at the disposal of the Holy Spirit.

Though we cannot possibly consider all of Benedict’s work here, we can safely say that his three encyclicals alone have given us a wealth of material for reflection, effectively bringing the eternal truths, of which the Catholic Church is steward, into dialogue with the challenges of today’s culture.

In the last of these encyclicals, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), Benedict addresses the charitable efforts of the Church. First a little background: It is well known that billions of dollars go from the world’s wealthier nations to impoverished nations. Often in the form of loans or material aid, donations go through governments, through large multinational organizations such as the United Nations, and through charitable foundations and organizations.

Over the last few decades, some worthy projects have become progressively corrupted with the false premise that poverty would be alleviated if the poor would stop having children. This insidious lie has become practically impervious to contrary evidence, such as the fact that wealthier nations are quite often more densely populated than the poorest nations — and that wealthy nations became wealthy while they had higher fertility rates, and thus larger families.

Still, the belief that children are an obstacle to progress is now as much a shared assumption of international development efforts as is the need for improved education and infrastructure. Human Life International’s pro-life missionaries know that this destructive attitude is particularly difficult to overcome. Indeed, billions that could be spent on worthy projects go instead to legalize abortion in nations that do not want it and to promote contraception as a means of improving “reproductive health.”

Catholic charitable organizations, Benedict writes in Caritas in Veritate, have a particular responsibility to have a radically different approach to poverty. The good work done by these groups must be done in a spirit of true evangelization, unabashedly bringing the love of Jesus Christ — caritas — to the poor. We provide material assistance in an efficient manner with high professional standards, but we must see in our brother and sister who live in poverty not a problem to be solved, but the greatest resource for their own turn toward prosperity.

Catholics cannot pursue this essential work in the same way as secular organizations, but rather with the knowledge that every person is destined for heaven — and as such has needs beyond mere material assistance. When we recognize this truth, we see in the poor our shared dignity as we are made in the image of our Creator. This is what Benedict means when he calls for “the development of every person and of the whole person.”

Clearly, this is not the prevailing ethos of the international development community. For this reason, Catholic organizations must be very careful about how they pursue their missions. Faith formation of staff must be a high priority.

As Benedict says in Caritas in Veritate, “Openness to life is at the center of true development” (# 28). It’s sad that such common sense would be considered revolutionary, but in the field of international development, it most surely is. Benedict has called for a renewal of the Church’s charitable work, which is as much a part of her mission, he says, as is the liturgy and the sacraments. To ensure that he was not misunderstood, Benedict promulgated new articles within Canon Law this past December, expressly empowering bishops to ensure the faithfulness of the Church’s charitable organizations to the entirety of her social and moral doctrine.

The great work done by Catholic charitable organizations must continue. It can be a tremendous vehicle for sharing both the Gospel and the truths of the Church’s social and moral doctrine. For his eloquent and persistent articulation of these truths in Caritas in Veritate — and in dozens of other statements and documents — we can be very grateful for Benedict’s pontificate. And we pray that Pope Francis will continue to pursue this urgent effort in charity and in truth.

FR. SHENAN BOQUET is the president of Human Life International.