Nun ministering to transgender women gets thumbs-up from Pope

by Inés San Martín

July 25, 2017

ROME- Even during the summer, when Pope Francis has a much more private profile, the energizer bunny of popes is far from being inactive. This year, for instance, he took the time to answer an email from Sister Monica Astorga, a Discalced Carmelite nun who works with transgender women in his native Argentina, helping them get out of prostitution and substance abuse.

Astorga wrote an email to Francis last Thursday, to update him on the new developments in the ministry she does in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen. It didn’t take long for her to hear back from the pope: She told Crux his answer came in the next day, on Friday.

Astorga had written to the pope to inform him that the city had given her a plot of public land, where she planned to build 15 one-room homes for the transgender women she works with.

Read the full article here.

About the featured photo: Sister Monica Astorga with some of the transgender women she works with. (Credit: Sister Mónica Astorga/Facebook.)

St Jude Novena Prayer


Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Please intercede on my behalf. Make use of that particular privilege given to you to bring hope, comfort, and help where they are needed most. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven as I work with my challenges, particularly (here make your request). I praise God with you and all the saints forever. I promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

The National Shrine of St. Jude

Fr. James Martin’s Ministry to LGBT Catholics

Meeting on the Bridge: Fr. James Martin’s Ministry to LGBT Catholics Becomes a Book

An interview with Jesuit Priest Fr. James Martin, by author Kaya Oakes

A few years ago, the idea of a “celebrity Jesuit” would have puzzled most Americans. That was not only before the election of the first Jesuit pope, but also before Fr. James Martin began appearing on The Colbert Report, and before his books on saints, spirituality and prayer ascended the bestseller lists.

Today, Martin occupies a unique place in religious media: still working a day job as the editor-at-large of America magazine (where I’m an occasional contributing writer), he’s also become a go-to explainer of Catholic issues to both religious and secular audiences. He’s so successful in this role that in April of this year, he took up yet another job when he was invited by Pope Francis to be a consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.

In the past few years, however, even as Martin’s profile has grown, it has also included a focus on one of the Catholic church’s most marginalized groups, the LGBT community. Martin describes this as an “informal ministry,” conducted through articles, conversations and social media, and it expanded after the June 2016 shooting in Orlando, Florida when Martin was dismayed that Catholic church leaders failed to acknowledge the targeting of LGBT people in the Pulse massacre. His Facebook video posted the day after Orlando has over a million and a half views.

The scope of his outreach is still so unusual for a Catholic priest that Martin was honored by the church reform group New Ways Ministry in October of last year.

The talk he gave at that gathering has now been expanded into a book, Building a Bridge. Martin’s collection of the expanded talk and scripture meditations for LGBT Catholics even comes with an unusual set of endorsements from cardinals, bishops, and New Ways Ministry founder Sister Jeannine Grammick, who was investigated by the Vatican for her work with LGBT Catholics in 1999.

At a time when Catholic school teachers and lay ministers are still regularly being fired for being LGBT, endorsements from church higher-ups for a book that advocates pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics comes as a surprise. But it’s also indicative of Martin’s unique position in the church: respected by everyone from Vatican officials to activist women religious to secular journalists to his massive social media following, he may actually be in a position to gently influence the way LGBT people are treated by the institutional church. We spoke in May.

Click Below to read the complete article and interview as a PDF.
Meeting on the Bridge

– OR –
Click here for original article source.

– AND –
Here is a good follow-up Q&A with Fr. James.

Jesus the Liberal

In keeping with the theme that Jesus was (and is) a liberal, I offer for your consideration the following article by Michael Shammas, which was published in The Huffington Post.

A long time ago there was a remarkable man, a man who said that might does not make right, that the weak have a strength the strong do not have and that what we call “justice” is often really injustice. He was a man who was condemned by traditional conservative society and who died as a result of lawful application of the death penalty. Who was this man? Jesus of Nazareth.

Although I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I have not been very religious throughout my life. As a result, I had long assumed that the sort of Christianity espoused by the Christian Right — a Christianity that stresses cold justice over mercy and retribution over forgiveness, sometimes seeming more hateful than loving and all the while ignoring the plight of the poor — was true Christianity. Yet recently I opened up the New Testament and re-read the gospels.

Upon finishing, I was pleasantly reminded how different Jesus was from so many of the Christians I know today, including myself. Christianity is not Christ, and no where is this dysfunction between Christianity and Christ so evident as it is in conservative America. For in the Bible Jesus is a revolutionary figure, a rebel who questions conventional morality and societal traditions and who stresses mercy over justice. He could not be more different from conservative Christians like Michele Bachmann who call out for a harsh judicial system and who champion the rich over the poor.

This view is backed up by the text, as examples of Jesus’ remarkable counter-societal morality are plentiful. This is the man who, after coming upon a woman about to be stoned for adultery — a capital offense at the time — saved her by challenging: “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” As Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes, here and elsewhere Jesus is implying that “no one [has] the moral authority to condemn a fellow human to death,” for no one is “without sin.” When Jesus — the only person who can rightly judge this woman since he is indeed sinless — confronts the adulteress, he does not punish, scold or reprimand her. No, he ignores the law (which after all is different from morality) and forgives her. “Go,” he says, “and sin no more.” If only society had shown the same singular mercy to Jesus himself before executing him!

It is absolutely remarkable how much the story above contrasts with our own punishment-orientated justice system today — a system that is harshest in the Bible Belt. Humans love to judge one another; we take sick pleasure in pointing out the flaws in others, perhaps because it paints us in a better light. But reading the New Testament reveals that Jesus was rightly wary of human judgment. For this is a judgment that is too often self-righteous and hypocritical, a judgment that ignores one’s own faults to single out the perceived faults of others. (Unfortunately, this type of judgement pervades our justice system).

This assertion is backed up by Jesus’ words in the text: “Judge not lest you be judged.” And, speaking of those who reserve harsh judgment for others: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Now, I understand why many Christians do not exemplify Christ’s teachings: Jesus sets an impossible standard for most humans to follow, including me. We are flawed, vain creatures who are full of bitterness and hatred and pride, who all too often feel a desire for retribution and for harsh judgment. But Jesus’ words could not be clearer: Justice is not enough, and indeed what society calls justice is often in fact injustice. Remember, “justice” is what put Jesus on the Cross. A truly good society cherishes mercy as well as justice.

Consider the Sermon on the Plain from Luke: “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.” Surely this is not the Old Testament message of cold justice, of a God who should sometimes be feared, of violence that can be and sometimes is justified. No, this is a liberal message of forgiveness and mercy. This is a message that humans are imperfect, but that this imperfectness is perfectly fine: God loves you anyway. What’s more, because humans are all imperfect, we should not judge one another: Leave that to God. Once humans can accept one another as imperfect, for who they are, without judging one another, love can begin to pervade our lives.

Indeed, contrary to extremist organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church or right-wing Christians like Michele Bachmann, Jesus exhorts us to be absolutely full of love — to love everyone, even those who persecute us, even those who have done no good for us and who can never do any good for us. “Love your enemies, and do good and lend expecting nothing back,” he says. And: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much.”

I am not a theologian, and I know full well that many on the Christian Right might say that I am missing the message, that judgment is in fact important, that human retribution is justified. But casual reader though I may be, I still cannot escape the impression that many Christians are just not listening to the message of the Bible as it was espoused by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Why not? I don’t know. The only explanation I can think of is that they are stressing the Old Testament over the New, even though Jesus himself spoke out against certain practices in the Old Testament.

When our country is attacked, many people (including me) cry out for vengeance. And yet Jesus sets this impossible standard: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.” When someone is robbed, many people (including me) cry out for retribution or prosecution. Yet Jesus says: “If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them also.”

Too many Christians, myself among them, are self-righteous. Perhaps some think that because they are Christian, because they are (at least on the outside) moral, surely they are better than those who have stolen, who have polluted themselves with illicit substances, who have committed sexual sins and so on. Yet Jesus says: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I am imperfect. God knows, I have sinned countless times throughout my short life. But the worst in me is not the best in me; I am not defined by my worst actions, and you are not either. None of us are.

Jesus tells us that it is okay to be imperfect — that because we are all imperfect, we should reserve judgment. If I had to sum up Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount in two words, it would be these: Be kind. This is a message that our modern society desperately needs. And importantly, the message is not qualified. Jesus’ words are not “Be kind, except to certain people.” No, his message is simple: Be kind.

This great message — straight from Jesus’ mouth — is one that is not heard often enough in American churches.

Follow Michael Shammas on Twitter:

Stuff That Needs to be Said

I stumbled upon a fascinating blog tonight, after following a link on Facebook. I’d like to introduce you to John Pavlovitz. John writes a blog called, “Stuff That Needs to be Said.” He’s right. This stuff does need to be said. And he says it well.

Here are links to a few of John’s posts:

Yes, I’m a Christian—But I’m Not With Them

The Christians Who Defunded Jesus

The Christians Making Atheists

Christians Need to Stop Saying “The Bible Clearly Says”

No, Christian—People are Not “Struggling With Same-Sex Attraction”

Stand with Christians in Sudan

The Voice of the Martyrs supports front-line workers in Sudan and around the world who sacrifice their own safety and comfort for the sake of sharing Jesus’ love among the persecuted.

In addition to supporting front-line workers, VOM also provides Bibles, medical aid, Action Packs and Family Med Packs to persecuted Christians in Sudan.

During the month of July, we invite you to make a special contribution to help support Sudanese Christians, who remain faithful despite persecution by a government that hates them in part because of their love for Jesus. Take this opportunity to stand with Christians in Sudan, and please pray for God’s protection and blessings on them.

Help Christians in Sudan


Voice of the Martyrs


Teaching Hatred in the Name of Christ

It is sad that many people teach hatred, using the Bible and Christianity as basis. If one cuts out every word from the New Testament except the words of Jesus, there is no mistaking his lesson. Love all, forgive all, hate none, judge none, feed the poor, clothe the naked.

Failing to accept anyone, just as he is, is not a Christian act.

Holding yourself out to be deserving of God’s grace, while claiming that anyone else is not, is not a Christian act.

Restricting the rights of others is not a Christian act.

Holding a sign that says “Homo Sex Is Sin” is not a Christian act.

Before we put on that name tag that says, “Hello, I’m a Christian,” we all ought to re-read the words of Christ.