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Cardinal Burke promotes 9-month novena to pray for the Church amid ‘forces of sin’

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke during the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, June 29, 2019. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 13:38 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Raymond Burke this week invited Catholics to join in praying a nine-month novena seeking Mary’s intercession beginning on March 12 and culminating on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. 

The American cardinal, who founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, announced the prayer initiative in a video address posted over the weekend. 

“Our Lord has not called us to fear. No matter the darkness of our age, men and women of faith are not without the truth and love of Christ, nor the faithful care of his mother,” Burke wrote in an accompanying letter posed to the Guadalupe shrine website. 

“The darkness of sin seems so great. But Our Lord has not called us to fear! Evil cannot approach the power of God’s grace. Sin cannot prevent Our Lord’s healing mercy from reaching those who repent and seek it. And nothing can diminish the care and protection of Our Lady for us, which remain as strong today as they were 500 years ago.”

A novena, a traditional Catholic practice usually consisting of a nine-day series of petitionary prayers, can also be much longer. Those who sign up to join Burke’s novena will receive, via email, short video reflections from the cardinal each month in addition to regular written reflections and prayers. 

Recalling St. Juan Diego, to whom Christ’s mother appeared under the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe in present-day Mexico in 1531, Burke invited “all Catholics, especially those in the Americas” to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for “maternal care and protection.”

“The world wrestled with famine and disease, and war in the Holy Land threatened to reduce that beautiful and tortured region to chaos. Then, too, poisonous confusion from within the Church corroded the faith of Christians the world over,” Burke wrote. 

“And then, too, we saw the forces of sin retreat before the presence of Our Lady. Through St. Juan Diego’s humble and courageous cooperation with grace, Our Lady claimed the New World for Christ, drawing nearly 9 million new souls into the Church by the time of St. Juan Diego’s death in 1548. It is this same maternal care and protection that we seek today — a care and protection that she will grant us, should we earnestly ask for it.”

A native of Wisconsin, Burke previously shepherded the Diocese of La Crosse and the Archdiocese of St. Louis before being appointed in 2008 as head of the Church’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, until 2014. 

The AI dilemma: job loss, hallucinations, and virtual girlfriends

"A Fundamental Difference?" was the title of a conversation about generative artificial intelligence at the 2024 New York Encounter. From left to right are Indiana University’s Davide Bolchini, Jon Stokes of Symbolic AI, and journalist Jennifer Strong. / Credit: Renata Gelmi

New York City, N.Y., Feb 27, 2024 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

Since the generative artificial intelligence (AI) platform ChatGPT made its debut last year, millions of users have discovered how it can save time and make life easier. Ask it a question, and in seconds it will have drafted an email for you or created a schedule for your next vacation. 

But with this technology only in its infancy, should we be worried about what society stands to lose if AI takes over an ever-expanding list of functions once performed by humans? 

“If people are feeling fretful, it makes sense. We’re in a stressful moment,” Jennifer Strong, a journalist who covers the impact of new technologies on society, said at a discussion on AI at the New York Encounter cultural festival held earlier this month in Manhattan. 

Strong joined Jon Stokes, co-founder and chief product officer at Symbolic AI, in a conversation about the potential promises and perils of AI. 

‘It will replace some kinds of labor’

Strong and Stokes, technology journalist and technology entrepreneur, both agreed on one thing: generative AI will take the place of humans and result in the loss of jobs.

The use of generative AI has primarily been as a “productivity efficiency tool,” Strong said. “This was in every sector, everywhere, a way to save time and save money.”

Those in upper-level positions need not worry about their jobs for now, the panelists said. However, entry-level writers and reporters whose job it is to read press releases and speeches and write about their highlights are already being replaced by AI.

Stokes, whose company creates AI tools for writers and publishers, acknowledged that handing over these roles to a machine comes at a price.

“But then the flip side is doing all of that [work] kind of trains you. It makes you better. And so I think that we may have a talent pipeline problem in the future because of gen AI. If it takes over the low-level stuff,” he said.

As a journalist, Strong shared her concern about how AI will affect her industry. “And we do have a talent pipeline issue. How do you get an investigative reporter if you don’t have a newsroom and you don’t have that mentorship, that job, that on-the-job training?” 

AI hallucinations and errors

Davide Bolchini, executive associate dean of the Luddy School of Informatics at Indiana University, who moderated the panel, raised the issue of AI “hallucinations.” AirCanada, he said, was recently ordered by a court to issue a refund to a customer who got incorrect information about fares from the airline’s AI-powered bot. 

If AI introduces errors, Strong said, it defeats its purpose as a time-saving device.

“The whole reason we started using AI to sift through lots of data and examples and all of this and look for patterns and pattern matching is because we, as humans, are not fabulous at that. And so now we’re putting ourselves in a position where we’ve come full circle and we’re having to take all this stuff and start looking through it,” Strong said.

Such hallucinations can be damaging to personal reputations, Strong said, pointing to the example of law professor Jonathan Turley.  

In 2023, Turley’s name appeared when ChatGPT was asked to create a list of legal scholars who had sexually assaulted someone. His name came up simply because he had taught classes about sexual discrimination and sexual assault. 

Strong said Turley “now is associated with those words, appears to be accused by AI of committing these crimes, and cannot seem to extract himself from that,” Strong said. “Yeah, I think truth matters.”

She added that it is hard to correct AI’s mistakes, because “AI is not a simple database.”

“If we decide to delete something that’s not true after it’s gone through this machine learning process, you can’t really do that. Microsoft Research spent seven months last year trying to see if it could help a model forget something, and it couldn’t figure out how,” Strong said.

AI girlfriends 

When asked about any concerns he may have about AI, Stokes, the AI engineer, said he worries some people might “forsake human connection for a kind of world of their own construction,” perhaps with an “AI girlfriend in VR.” 

“I think some people will isolate, and some people’s minds will kind of bifurcate and leave the collective,” he said.

Others, he said, “will try and maintain real connections and relationships, and in some cases, maybe use some gen AI to augment those.” 

He explained that AI can be used, alternatively, to bring people together.

“I mean, the promises for translation and for other kinds of work. There’s a story that you can tell about gen AI, where it maximizes communication bandwidth. Like, people whose language is maybe awkward, who are bad at putting together linguistic constructs, can sort of get their ideas through with generative AI. And so it can be a communication aid,” he said.

“But I worry about it maybe becoming like an obsession or an end in itself, a way that people escape and grow further apart,” Stokes said.

Standing up to AI: screenwriters’ strike

It’s not inevitable that AI will take humans entirely out of the creative process, Strong said.

While AI is currently being used to “write the first draft of everything,” she notes that we saw resistance to it with the 2023 screenwriters’ strike in Hollywood. 

“We saw the film industry really step up and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to cut our pay because you’re taking away the part that is most unique to us and most valued about us. You’re going to give us a first draft of a movie and then tell us just to make it good. And it’s never worked that way,” she said.

“I think we’re going to see more people just saying, ‘Okay, technology is great, but what’s the purpose and who does it serve and why is it here? And how to not put it on me so much as let me interact with it?’ I think [this] will be one of the big trends to watch,” Strong said.

Two San Francisco Bay Catholic schools to close over security and other concerns

Students from St. Anthony Catholic School in Oakland, California, visit the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. / Credit: Facebook of St. Anthony Catholic School

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Oakland in California has announced that at the end of the school year it will close two private Catholic schools in the east San Francisco Bay area amid concerns about security and the presence of human trafficking activity in the vicinity.

According to an investigative report by ABC 7 News, parents at St. Anthony Catholic School, part of Lumen Christi Academies, were informed of the decision two weeks ago by email.

In addition to security issues, the Diocese of Oakland’s email stated that the reasons for the closing of the schools also include financial problems as well as outside factors such as homelessness, unemployment, a shortage of affordable housing, and the presence of human trafficking activity near the school.

More than a year ago, the ABC7 News investigative team reported the existence of human trafficking activity in the area in a video showing apparent sex workers and pimps loitering near the school, which led the FBI to install surveillance cameras and traffic barriers in streets near the school.

In November 2023, Operation Phoenix, a large-scale operation conducted by various law enforcement agencies, dismantled an alleged human trafficking ring spanning several cities in the San Francisco Bay area.

Months earlier, in Operation Cross Country, local police rescued 200 trafficking victims and located 59 minors who were also victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

According to the most recent report from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, during 2021 more than 5,200 alerts of possible cases were recorded in California, which topped the list with approximately 10% of the total.

In addition to St. Anthony Catholic School, the Diocese of Oakland confirmed that Our Lady of Guadalupe School in the bay city of Fremont will close its doors on June 6.

In an official statement, the diocese explained that the school run by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San José will close due to a “drastic decrease in enrollment” and a “reduction in reserve funds,” factors that made the continued operation of the school unsustainable.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Lisieux House: Convent turned young adult community celebrates 10 years 

Lisieux House ladies holding up a picture of St. Therese of Lisieux from a feast day celebration they had in her honor. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Angela Maccarrone

CNA Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The sad reality of dwindling vocations to religious life in the U.S. leaves the Catholic Church with an odd phenomenon — empty convents. But the Lisieux House, a small community of young adult women in Seattle, has brought life back into an old convent for nearly a decade.   

Founded in 2014, the convent-turned-residence first opened its doors to young women on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Almost 10 years later, it’s a vibrant community currently housing nine young women. And in a fitting twist, one member of the house has been accepted into candidacy as a religious sister with the Carmelites.

Lisieux House women in March 2023 at a spring retreat at Holy Theophany Monastery in Olympia, Washington. Pictured from left to right: Kendra Baker, Anne-Marie Droege, Hannah Gillespie (now alumna), Mikaela Rink, Sophia Basil, Theresa Ambat, Kelci Young (now alumna), Angela Maccarrone, and Maggie May. Courtesy of Maggie May
Lisieux House women in March 2023 at a spring retreat at Holy Theophany Monastery in Olympia, Washington. Pictured from left to right: Kendra Baker, Anne-Marie Droege, Hannah Gillespie (now alumna), Mikaela Rink, Sophia Basil, Theresa Ambat, Kelci Young (now alumna), Angela Maccarrone, and Maggie May. Courtesy of Maggie May

The founder of the Lisieux House, Molly Gallagher, was the director of religious education at a local parish when “God put [the house] in my path,” she said. 

Eucharistic at heart

By writing a “house constitution” that the young women still abide by today, Gallagher shaped the house for years to come. 

She began by visiting other young adult Catholic homes throughout the U.S., many of which have since disbanded. 

“What I found in the houses around the country is that they’re Eucharistic-centered,” she said. “And without the Eucharist, they tend to fail.” 

Basing their practice on the house constitution, the young women pray night prayer together Monday through Thursday, host weekly house dinners followed by the rosary, and have at least one monthly Mass in the house chapel. 

The women also have two retreats a year and encourage newcomers to read “Story of a Soul,” St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobiography. 

Throughout the day, residents can visit the chapel, which houses the Eucharist in a tabernacle. 

Maggie May, a 26-year-old engineer who is the current “house leader” at Lisieux, said that “living with the Blessed Sacrament” makes the house different from “anywhere else that I’ve lived.”

“The Eucharist is really the heart” of the house, Gallagher noted. 

Most of "the original group" pictured with Father Jacques Philippe, who visited the house on Feb. 14, 2016. Philippe, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes in France, is known for his spiritual writings, including "Searching for and Maintaining Peace." From left to right: Stéphanie Baghoumina, Molly Gallagher, Alane Howard, Father Jacque Philippe, Michael Shelby Suberlak, Renee Corcoran, Francine Gregorios, and Molly McCloskey. Credit: Photo courtesy of Lisieux House
Most of "the original group" pictured with Father Jacques Philippe, who visited the house on Feb. 14, 2016. Philippe, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes in France, is known for his spiritual writings, including "Searching for and Maintaining Peace." From left to right: Stéphanie Baghoumina, Molly Gallagher, Alane Howard, Father Jacque Philippe, Michael Shelby Suberlak, Renee Corcoran, Francine Gregorios, and Molly McCloskey. Credit: Photo courtesy of Lisieux House

Making an ‘ugly’ building welcoming

Gallagher said she suspects that the strength of the House comes from its difficult beginning, which was marked by a “spirit of poverty.” 

“In the beginning, it wasn’t running as smoothly as it is now,” Gallagher said. “And so we all helped; everyone really helped to build the place.”

Moving into a convent that lacked insulation and furniture helped with “bonding us together,” she explained.  

“Stuff broke all the time,” she recalled. “It looked pretty ugly.”

But the spirit of poverty shone in the young women who lived there, whom Gallagher described as “humble” and “authentic.”

“That spirit of poverty helps communicate to other people that they don’t have to be impressive, that they’re just loved as they are,” Gallagher said.

“I didn’t really found it,” she said of the house. “God and all of these girls founded it.”

Faith and a broken pipe

Angela Maccarrone, a young woman pursuing her doctoral degree in clinical psychology, “immediately fell in love” with the Lisieux House after hearing about it in a local Catholic magazine

But Maccarrone has a rare form of muscular dystrophy that causes muscle weakness affecting her spine, neck, and respiratory muscles. She struggles with respiratory issues and uses a motorized scooter to move. 

Angela Maccarrone pictured with other Lisieux girls at a local parish in Seattle. Credit: Photo courtesy of Maggie May.
Angela Maccarrone pictured with other Lisieux girls at a local parish in Seattle. Credit: Photo courtesy of Maggie May.

When she reached out to the Lisieux House, Maccarrone said the young women helped brainstorm how to make the house accessible and “never shied away from the idea” of her moving in. But the parish couldn’t afford the cost of renovation. 

Then, a pipe burst in one of the bedrooms — the room that was potentially suitable for the accessibility renovation. 

The room had to be completely gutted, and because insurance covered it, the church was able to make the room accessible for Maccarrone’s needs.

“And at the time, the girls were praying a novena to St. Thérèse,” she said. “And so we like to joke that St. Thérèse likes to play jokes, and that she works with broken pipes.”

The building still isn’t fully accessible; Maccarrone has to go outside and around the house to access the chapel and the upstairs area because there’s no elevator or chair lift. 

“The house is an old convent,” Maccarrone noted. “You can tell it’s aged, and there’s lots of renovations and things that we need, but yet, at the same time, we make it home, and we try to foster that sense of hospitality and rest here at the house.”

This community helps form friendships that are “ultimately rooted in Christ,” Maccarrone said.

“I think the love and the community that Lisieux House has provided — it’s really not just a house with a bunch of roommates living together; it’s so much more than that,” she said. 

The secrets of Lisieux House

Gallagher, who moved into the house a couple of years after it was established and lived there for four years, said the house has “a few secrets.”

“You think you’re going to just move into a community and you’re just going to have a place to live,” she said. “But really, the way we set up the prayer life of the house, I think God really takes you and works on you in a deeper way.”

The women who stay at Lisieux are often in a transitional phase in their careers, May and Gallagher both noted.

“Something about Lisieux House really has a vocational element to it,” Gallagher said. “Because you’re in this safe, protected place, and anytime you’re in a place like that, God does deeper spiritual work because he sort of has you cloistered a little bit, so he can do deeper stuff.”

In fact, one Lisieux resident, Kendra Baker, will leave the house to begin her candidacy with the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.

While many of the women at Lisieux have had “career pivots,” May noted, they are all “trying to live out their vocation in different stages of life.” 

Some of the women are teachers; one works at Seattle Children’s and another at a life-affirming clinic; another is a chef for local Dominican friars. 

“It’s not a cookie-cutter type thing,” May said. “And I think that’s really a testament to the universality of the Church and how everyone has their own individual calling.”

A community dinner at Lisieux House. Credit: Photo courtesy of Angela Maccarrone
A community dinner at Lisieux House. Credit: Photo courtesy of Angela Maccarrone

The need for Lisieux House 

When asked whether this could — or should — be repeated in other places, Gallagher said that while the Lisieux House model may not be for everybody, there is a need for community everywhere.  

“I think we’re in this period of time where people are more and more isolated, and they feel like they don’t have purpose,” she reflected.

Not only does the Lisieux House provide community for the young women living there, but they extend that community out by inviting others to house dinners and events. 

“We really wanted a deep charism of hospitality because there’s a lot of displaced people, a lot of isolation, especially in our modern era,” Gallagher said. 

She said that people have forgotten that “we’re supposed to be filled with the fire of the Spirit.” 

“I heard somebody say once [that] we need people to stand on the hill holding the torch to remind people of where to go and remind people of who they are because it’s lost information,” she continued. 

But founding a house is “a very hard thing to do,” and Gallagher credited “the grace of God” for it all.

“It’s sort of a miracle that Lisieux House has happened and is still running,” she said. 

But the effects of the house are powerful, even 10 years later.

“When you haven’t been aware of a type of love and then you suddenly are in it, you can’t go back,” Gallagher said. “It changes you.”

More information about the Lisieux House can be found here.

Another Kind of Vision

Another Kind of Vision

The ending of Genesis brings to a close two sustained narratives, one the story of Joseph and his brothers, the other the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs, men with whose names God ever afterward chose to identify Himself. Before the rise of Joseph, the children of Abraham drifted through the world as their flocks and their little ones allowed, as drought required, as God directed. They were dwellers in tents and keepers of cattle, unexceptional, perhaps, even in having a conception of God unique to them, drawn from the dreams and visions of the most revered among them. Abraham stood in the door of his tent and saw the heavens shining with their multitudes of stars, which were all the families of earth. Now we know that there are vastly more stars than he would have seen, even allowing for the purity of earth’s darkness on an ancient night. And the earth has indeed been fruitful, bearing and nurturing families enough to justify the Lord’s promise. That radiant futurity had nothing to do with grandeur of any kind beyond its own singular magnificence. Abraham was told that he would be a blessing to humankind. We can’t well imagine that there was such a man, brought out into the night by his friend the Lord to consider the ongoingness of Creation at its most spectacular and to be told by Him that he has a part in its unfolding. This moment is like nothing I know of in any other literature or myth system. It is worldly in that the vision sees the glory of the heavens as like the families of earth, which are and will be numerous and also glorious. In this moment it might be possible to say that Abraham saw as God sees, valuing humankind as God does.

The book of Genesis begins with the emergence of Being in a burst of light and ends with the death and burial of a bitter, homesick old man. If there is any truth to modern physics, this brings us to the present moment. Disgruntled and bewildered, knowing that we derive from an inconceivably powerful and brilliant first moment, we are at a loss to find anything of it in ourselves. God loved Jacob and was loyal to him, no less for the fact that Jacob felt the days of his life, providential as they were, as deep hardship.

After the passing of Jacob/Israel and his son Joseph no more will be heard of the Israelites for four hundred years. Their descent into Egypt is carefully prepared in the stories of both Jacob and Joseph, and when it comes it is a descent into utter silence. This is remarkable. Captivity in Egypt is a very central part of Israelite identity, yet no tales of pathos or of heroism are given a place in Scripture before the birth of Moses. Historical, literary, or both, this dark passage defeats every question that might be asked about its place in the working of providence.

For the purposes of the law it rooted compassion in experience, as for example in Deuteronomy 24:17–18: “Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge: but thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee thence.” Or the beautiful Exodus 23:9: “Thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Laws based on compassionate identification with those most vulnerable to abuse are vanishingly rare, in antiquity and in every subsequent era. It is a comment on human nature, presumably, that a captivity so long and profound would be required to introduce this kind of empathy into personal and social morality. And it is another comment on human nature that such a harsh experience could yield an ethic of justice and generosity rather than of insularity and resentment. If Israelites fell short of this high standard, notably after their entry into Canaan, so do we all, and in much less exigent circumstances. As always, to their great credit, they cherished their mingled heritage and preserved it.

Redemption is another central idea that emerged for scriptural purposes from the centuries in Egypt. To be redeemed means literally to be “bought back,” to be freed from trouble, especially bondage, by a kinsman or benefactor. Poverty or debt often led to slavery, so to pay the debt was to restore the debtor to freedom. God presents His intervention in these human terms that, like a covenant, involve loyalty to the relationship on the part of the stronger party. The word and the relationship retain the memory of slavery and of a gracious act of liberation. This understanding of the bond between God and Israel remains important through the whole of the Hebrew Bible. Its significance to the New Testament can hardly be overstated.

There is a moment early in the story of Moses that might have been the beginning of his career as a revolutionary leader. “He went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.” A young man brought up in the circles of power and privilege one day realizes his identity with an oppressed people and reacts to an act of violence with violence, no doubt thinking that in killing the Egyptian and concealing his body he has done something just, worthy of respect. Perhaps assuming this, when he sees two Hebrews fighting, he asks the aggressor, “Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?” The solidarity he has begun to feel he wants to encourage in them. The Hebrew makes a startling reply. “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?” Moses is not admired for the violent act but taunted with it. Farther on in the story Moses does indeed emerge as a prince and judge, but not as the leader of an insurrection. His killing of the Egyptian, personification as the man may have been of the brutality suffered by the Hebrews, does not at all redound to his credit. So Moses will become the leader of an exodus, not an insurrection. This exchange with a nameless man, long before Moses is given his role by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is remembered in the text, an isolated Hebrew voice speaking out of the Egyptian silence, expressing in his way the old belief that to kill any human being is to kill Adam, God’s image. Clearly Moses, who goes into hiding, understands his words to mean he will be seen by the Hebrews as a murderer and not a hero—and perhaps not as a Hebrew, either, since he has violated this prohibition. This is remarkable in the circumstances and crucial to the form resistance will take. We are told that the Egyptians feared the Hebrews because they had become so numerous. But rather than turning to force, through Moses and Aaron they ask Pharaoh for leave to be gone, and only when they have received it—granting spectacular coercions—do they depart. This is a moment in which some Spartacan act of heroic rebellion would be satisfying. And this is an instance in which God repays evil for evil. But the Hebrew people simply gather themselves up and walk out of Egypt.

 

Genesis can hardly be said to end. In it certain things are established—the nature of Creation and the spirit in which it was made; the nature of humankind; how and in what spirit the Creator God enters into relation with His human creatures. The whole great literature of Scripture, unfolding over centuries, will proceed on the terms established in this book. So Genesis is carried forward, in the law, in the psalms, in the prophets, itself a spectacular burst of light without antecedent but with a universe of consequences. This might seem like hyperbolic language to describe a text largely given over to the lives of people in many ways so ordinary that it is astonishing to find them in an ancient text. This realism by itself is a sort of miracle. These men and women saw the face of God, they heard His voice, and yet life for them came down to births and deaths, love, transgression, obedience, shame, and sorrow, everything done or borne in the course of the characterization of God, for Whom every one of us is a child of Adam, made in His image. God’s bond with Jacob, truly a man of sorrows, is a radical theological statement.

Herman Melville’s Father Mapple calls Scripture “a mighty cable.” Its intertwined strands of narrative exist in time, which they also create, or assert. There are the three overlapping generations of the patriarchs, which reach their mortal conclusion in old Jacob. There is the slow working out of the confrontation of Joseph’s brothers with their crime, time as experienced under a burden of guilt and dread. At the height of Joseph’s power in Egypt, there is imminent time, the four hundred years for which he, unbeknownst to himself, is preparing the prologue. And there is God’s time, always tending toward a resolution or realization or culmination inconceivable to us. Within this great arc are the eras we live out as history, and within them the comings and goings of human life, and human lives—the generations passing one to another the lore they have about it all, as they emerge and as they vanish.

To speak about strands of scriptural time is too schematic. It is useful, nevertheless. There is the kind of narrative that allows for character, experience, and choice and will be expressed most vividly in the psalms and the prophets. There is the constancy of the covenant, the Lord’s faithfulness, which makes Him a presence in every ebbing of faith and in all impending trouble. Then there are visionary moments, which seem to rise out of time and take on, however briefly, the character of truth, of goodness as the word is used at Creation.

Joseph does not see the face of God, not in a dream that affirms God’s care of him, nor in an angelic intervention in his time of sorrow and peril, nor in his embrace of his alienated brothers. What he sees instead is the working of divine intention.

In his first encounters with his brothers, Joseph is in the role of disguised avenger. Odysseus likewise conceals his identity to deal with offenses against him. He returns unrecognized from war and wandering to find his house filled with his wife’s suitors and hangers-on. In an ecstasy of rage he plans and carries out a great slaughter. His house runs with blood. Not even servant girls are spared. In another literature a character in Joseph’s place could have made a choice of this kind, could have demonstrated wiliness and power while he satisfied a crude definition of justice. But this is Scripture, and in place of catharsis there is an insight that casts its light over the narrative of Joseph and over the whole book of Genesis. When Joseph has made himself known to his brothers he tells them not to be distressed, because “God did send me before you to preserve life.” On these grounds, because he is able to save them from famine, he has forgiven their abuse of him, or he has seen matters in another light that made their guilt of no interest. As always in Genesis where revenge or punishment is an issue, the demands of justice in the human sense are not satisfied. God might have killed Cain, Esau might have killed Jacob, Judah might have condemned Tamar to death, and Joseph might have made his brothers feel his anger and his power by letting them and their families starve. It must be true that sacred history would have found its way to its ends even if these lives had been cut short, though the story is told in a way that makes every one of these lives seem absolutely consequential. This is something to consider, seeing that it occurs in a context that can be taken to mean that divine intent is altogether determining.

From a literary point of view, the fact that both can be true simultaneously is amazing, Father Mapple’s mighty cable at its most impressive. God’s humanism is so absolute that one particular Egyptian serving girl must be the mother of the Ishmaelites, one particular Canaanite widow must complete in long anticipation the genealogy of King David. By extension, any one of us, if we knew as we are known, would realize that there was a role that required our assuming it, uniquely, out of all the brilliant constellations of human families. I won’t speak here of the possibility of falling short, since there are so many instances of rescue, compensation, or reversal in the Bible that we are not competent to judge sufficiency or failure. If tasting that apple was the felix culpa, the “fortunate Fall” that launched us into history, the crime of Joseph’s brothers was comparable as the impetus that began the history of the nation Israel.

How to make moral sense of this is a real question. The next great phase in the history of Israel is God’s giving of the law, which is far too revelatory of His nature to be thought of as a kind of patch on a deeper antinomianism. In Romans, the apostle Paul paraphrases the book of Proverbs, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Our punitive bias, the legitimation of vengeance, in many cases the sanctification of it, which never means respect for the fact that God has claimed it for Himself, very much complicates the issue. If one wishes to align oneself with the will of God, granting every difficulty, grace, kindness is clearly the safer choice.

 

When Jacob dies, Joseph asks “his servants the physicians” to embalm him, and they put the mortal remains of the old herdsman through this very protracted, utterly pagan process, which, the text notes, takes forty days. Then, with his family, they deliver him with much ceremony and lament to the cave in Canaan where lie Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah, once again the wrong wife. Jacob must have seemed a strange intrusion, mummified and encased. Everyone meant well. Joseph is embalmed in his turn and placed in a coffin in Egypt. After Joseph the situation of the Hebrews worsens.

While he lived, at the pinnacle of authority, Joseph saw his dreams play out more beautifully than anyone could have imagined, not as foreseeing mere superiority or dominance but instead as giving him an occasion to comfort, sustain, and forgive. This is the climax the narrative has been building toward since Cain and Abel. I know of no other literature except certain late plays of Shakespeare that elevates grace as this book does. Joseph’s brothers have brooded for years on the grievous harm they have done him and their father. But in their darkest moment they might never have thought that Joseph himself, clothed in power, would hold their lives in his hands. Certainly they give little sign of happiness, even of relief, at seeing him. And when Jacob dies, they fear that Joseph will take his revenge on them. “When Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.’” So they send him a message saying that their dying father instructed him to pardon them. “And now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father.” It is surprising to find them identifying themselves in these terms, since to this point their piety has been expressed only as dread of divine retribution. And yet, no matter how sincere they are in speaking in this way, what they say is perfectly true. Just these men will lead the Hebrews into Egypt and bondage. Their families will multiply until they become a people. The life of the nation Israel will instruct and bless multitudes. The names of Joseph’s brothers will be remembered on earth for as long as the God of Genesis is remembered. Jacob struggled to find words of blessing for most of them, yet, like everyone whose story is told here—like everyone, presumably—they are indispensable. Joseph’s act of forgiveness in effect opens the way for them to assume their essential, though unexplained and unrecorded role in sacred history. In every instance where it arises, forgiveness is rewarded by consequences that could not have been foreseen or imagined. The application of this doctrine is straightforward.

So what constraints are there on Joseph when the lives of his brothers seem to be his to take if he chooses? If providence has a use for them, their survival could be said to be predetermined. But the scene in which Joseph again pardons his brothers fully and finally is beautiful because, Egyptianized as he is, never favored with the visionary dreams like those that engaged and instructed his forefathers, he has seen the actual workings of providence, another kind of vision. When his brothers raise the matter of his possible vengeance against them, he says, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” Yes, he is, in the sense that his mercy toward them seconds what he sees as God’s will. And yes, in the sense that he sees beyond a human conception of justice, which shapes his brothers’ fearful expectations, to the good issue of everything that has happened to him—good he reckons in terms of the lives he has saved. “As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” He promises to look after his brothers and their “little ones,” who are never forgotten when people are thought of in their vulnerable humanity.

At the end of his life, Joseph is revealed as a true heir of the covenant. He says to his brothers, “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob…. God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.” And, after generations, when the Israelites made their exodus from Egypt, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.” 

Marilynne Robinson

Leading bishop urges U.S. to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, two years into war

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. / Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

CNA Staff, Feb 26, 2024 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

A leading Maronite Catholic bishop this week urged ongoing humanitarian support for the suffering people of Ukraine, two years after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. 

Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, which encompasses a large portion of the western United States from California to Ohio, said in a Feb. 23 statement that he urges “the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance quickly.”

Zaidan, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, noted that according to a recent U.N. report, the number of civilians killed and injured since February 2022 exceeds 30,000. Separately this week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said an estimated 31,000 troops have died in the conflict. 

“Schools, hospitals, apartments, and basic infrastructure supplying power have been hit by missiles. In the face of such destruction and death, people are repeatedly displaced, insecure as to where to find safety,” Zaidan wrote. 

“The Catholic Church, including many Catholic welfare organizations, [is] trying to meet these enormous needs both within Ukraine and in other countries impacted by this war, which has raged on for two full years. The USCCB’s national collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has been critical in providing much-needed aid to the region.”

People of faith have been targeted in the conflict, Zaidan said, with reports of religious communities, particularly the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, “being attacked by Russian forces in territories they have seized,” Zaidan noted.

“Over 600 religious structures have been damaged, some occupied by Russian forces and turned into military bases. Clergy have been harassed, persecuted, kidnapped, and even killed.”

Zaidan noted that Pope Francis earlier this year said of the war in Ukraine that “one cannot allow the persistence of a conflict that continues to metastasize, to the detriment of millions of persons; it is necessary to put an end to the present tragedy through negotiations, in respect for international law.” He concluded by calling for people of goodwill to set aside Feb. 24, the anniversary of the start of the war, as a “solemn day of prayer, fasting for the end of the war, and for peace to come to this war-torn land.”

Though the U.S. bishops have continually supported humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s war, U.S. lawmakers remain divided over the way forward in terms of military support for the embattled nation. 

President Joe Biden, a Catholic, has repeatedly appealed in recent weeks to Congress to fully pass a new aid package with $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which the Senate sent to the House nearly two weeks ago. Most recently, Biden is set to convene the top four congressional leaders on Tuesday to urge them to send the measure to his desk, CNN reported Monday. The measure faces opposition in the House, particularly from Speaker Mike Johnson, who has said he will not bring the bill to the House floor in its current form. 

Here’s what Trump, Biden, and the Catholic Church are saying about IVF

Former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. / Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 26, 2024 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Both former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are voicing staunch support for the type of fertility treatment known as in vitro fertilization (IVF), slamming an Alabama Supreme Court decision that established the personhood of frozen embryos.

In the wake of the ruling, some Alabama fertility clinics have put IVF treatments on hold.

As the U.S. bishops have pointed out, many Catholics may not be aware that the Catholic Church forbids the use of assisted reproductive technology — such as IVF — that replaces the marriage act to achieve pregnancy. In addition, Church teaching deems the destruction of unwanted human embryos common in the procedure “morally unacceptable.”

Trump said in a Truth Social post on Friday that he strongly supports the availability of IVF “in every state” because he wants to “make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder.”

“The Republican Party should always be on the side of the miracle of life — and the side of mothers, fathers, and their beautiful babies. IVF is an important part of that,” Trump said, going on to call on the state’s Legislature to “act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama.”

Biden, meanwhile, called the Alabama ruling “outrageous” and linked it to what he considers a usurpation of women’s rights across the country.

“Make no mistake: This is a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” Biden said in a Thursday statement.

Vice President Kamala Harris went after Trump directly, saying on X that “no matter what Donald Trump says about IVF,” he is “the architect of this health care crisis.”

What was the Alabama ruling? 

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 20 that frozen human embryos constitute children under state statute, a decision that could have wide-reaching effects on in vitro fertilization treatments in the state.

The 8-1 ruling came following a lawsuit brought by several parents whose frozen embryos had been accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The court said that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act provisions extend to children “regardless of their location.”

“It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation,” the ruling said, adding this is “especially true where, as here, the people of [Alabama] have adopted a constitutional amendment directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection.”

What is IVF and what does the Catholic Church say about it? 

IVF is a procedure that artificially fuses sperm and egg in a lab environment to conceive a child outside the natural sexual act. According to the Mayo Clinic, IVF is typically used as a “treatment for infertility” that “also can be used to prevent passing on genetic problems to a child.” 

The Catholic Church has long opposed IVF as “morally unacceptable” because of the rejection of the natural procreative act of husband and wife, the commodification of the human child, and the destruction of embryonic human life, which is very common in the procedure. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that though “research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged,” practices such as IVF “disassociate the sexual act from the procreative act” and “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.”

“Such a relationship of domination,” the Catechism explains, is “contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.”

John Grabowski, a professor of moral theology and ethics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA that the issue is “interconnected” with abortion because “IVF typically results in the creation of ‘spare embryos,’ many of which are frozen, discarded, or destroyed through embryonic stem cell research.” 

Speaking on “EWTN News In Depth” on Feb. 23, National Catholic Bioethics Center President Dr. Joseph Meaney said the Alabama ruling clearly reflects the reality of unborn human life.

“We become new human beings at the moment of conception. The Church is very clear about this and science is very clear about this,” Meaney pointed out.

“We have to realize that if life begins at conception, then all those conceived human beings should be protected,” Meaney said. “Whether they’re in an IVF lab or in the wombs of their mothers, these are new human beings that deserve protection.”

Texas death row inmate to be executed in days as Catholics call for clemency

Ivan Cantu is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

CNA Staff, Feb 26, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholics are continuing to call for clemency for a convicted murderer in Texas who is facing execution amid an ongoing dispute over his guilty verdict. 

Texas has scheduled the execution of Ivan Cantu for Wednesday, Feb. 28. Cantu was convicted for a double murder that took place in 2000. 

In November of that year, according to the state, Cantu shot and killed both his cousin and a 21-year-old woman. He also stole jewelry and a car, the state says. 

Cantu has been on the state’s death row since November 2001. He was previously scheduled to be executed in April 2023 but was granted a stay of execution based on new testimony that alleged a possible false witness in his murder trial. 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently dismissed Cantu’s request for an evidentiary hearing. His attorneys have argued since then that he should be granted a new trial based on claims that the chief witness at his first trial was unreliable. 

Cantu has drawn support from a wide variety of Catholics as his execution has drawn nearer. The Catholic anti-death penalty group Catholics Mobilizing Network (CMN) urges readers on its website to “contact Gov. [Greg] Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles” to urge them to forgo the execution.

“Newly discovered evidence — which was not heard by the jury and has never been considered by any court — casts significant doubt on Ivan’s conviction,” the group says. 

“Some of the jurors who voted to sentence Ivan to death have since called for this evidence to be reviewed, declaring that they are disturbed by the prospect they heard false and misleading testimony during the trial,” CMN says.

Catholic religious Sister Helen Prejean, meanwhile, said on her website that she has “promised to be beside Ivan if his execution proceeds” but that “there is so much wrong with the case against him.”

Prejean, who has been a vocal opponent of the death penalty for decades, wrote on her website: “There’s no way I’m simply going to acquiesce, hold his hand, and pray him into eternity without doing every single thing I can to get the truth out so that Texas does not execute this man.”

Cantu has also drawn support from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. Last year after the delay in Cantu’s execution, the bishops said they were “grateful [that] a judge has shown mercy to Ivan Cantu” by scrapping the April execution date. 

The case against Cantu was “riddled with serious uncertainties including false testimony, withholding of evidence, and potential framing of Mr. Cantu,” the bishops said. 

Jennifer Allmon, the executive director of the TCCB, told CNA on Monday the conference has written the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott to request a stay of execution.

“We continue to advocate for a review of his case based on the new information and his claim of innocence,” Allmon said. 

“Taking another’s life who is potentially innocent of the crime for which he is being killed is not moral and should not be condoned by the state of Texas,” she argued. 

“The Church teaches it is ‘inadmissible’ for modern societies to use capital punishment, because it is ‘an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.’ We expect accountability for harm, legitimate discipline and reparation, and the protection of society, all of which can be realized without executions,” she said.

Cantu faces execution by lethal injection on Wednesday, the sole method allowed in Texas. 

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas has executed 586 people since 1976, more than any other state. Oklahoma is second, at 123. 

Texas claims the second-most number of executions per 100,000 residents in the country at roughly 1.9; only Oklahoma claims more, at 3.0 executions per 100,000. 

This article has been updated.

Faith inspires many at CPAC, including numerous Catholic speakers

Supporters of former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 24, 2024. / Credit: Mandel NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

CNA Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 21:58 pm (CNA).

Faith-based convictions were highlighted by numerous Catholic and other Christian participants at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held just outside Washington, D.C., this past week. 

An annual gathering of some of the most prominent conservatives in the United States and around the world, this year’s edition of CPAC took place from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24. 

The conference’s agenda included opportunities for both Mass and Protestant services, a screening of the film “Cabrini” — about the life of St. Frances Cabrini, the first Catholic saint from the United States — as well as panels on a biblical understanding of gender and how to respond to efforts to push Christianity out of the public square.

“The question is what moral code are we going to live by,” former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, said during a panel titled “The Bible Uncanceled” on Saturday. 

“The left has their own woke code that they change depending on what power dynamics are in place to help them control people,” Santorum added. “Whereas conservatives historically have said, no, … the moral code by which our country is going to live will be a biblically-based one.” 

Santorum warned that many in our society have “replaced the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [with] the God of self,” noting that this breakdown has caused “all of this depravity and confusion and depression and anxiety” among young people in the country. 

During an earlier panel titled “Genesis 1:27,” pushing back on gender ideology, Terry Schilling, a Catholic father of six who serves as president of the American Principles Project, warned against the growing threat to parental rights and religious freedom for parents who refuse to go along with or facilitate the “gender transition” of their minor children. 

Parents, he warned, are being punished “for protecting their children from this [transgender] industry that will quite literally chew them up and spit them out with destroyed bodies.”

The faith was also directly referenced by speakers on panels that were not explicitly religious in nature. 

Eduardo Verástegui, a Catholic actor who produced the anti-child-sex-trafficking film “Sound of Freedom,” discussed the faith component in his activism.

“I’m asking God and Our Lady of Guadalupe to help me,” Verástegui told the crowd to resounding cheers.

This expression of faith comes at a time when church affiliation in the United States has fallen and hostility toward traditional Christian views on controversial subjects has been on the rise. 

Santorum in his panel discussion noted that he has faced hostility for his faith-based views for a long time. 

“It’s OK,” he said. “God did not say ‘pick up your box of candies and follow me.’ He said ‘pick up your cross daily and follow me,’ and we all need to do that.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, who was removed from his post as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, last year, did not speak at the conference’s main event but did give remarks at the Ronald Reagan dinner on Friday night.

Other Catholics who spoke at the conference included Ohio U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance and political activist Jack Posobiec, along with Matt and Mercedes Schlapp, the husband and wife duo who lead the American Conservative Union, the parent organization of CPAC.

Former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump also spoke at CPAC. The former president focused his remarks on other domestic and foreign policy issues, including the economy and immigration.

Trump’s speech at CPAC took place on the same day he trounced his sole remaining rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in the South Carolina primary. 

The Associated Press called the election for Trump shortly after the polls closed on Saturday evening, with the former president projected to defeat former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in her home state by more than 20 percentage points.  

With more than three quarters of the results in from the Palmetto State at 9:45 p.m. ET on Saturday evening, the AP projection was holding up, with Trump at 60% and Haley at 39%.

Beer for Lent? The Diocese of Scranton’s ‘40 Days’ brew helps feed the homeless

Beer lovers gather at the release of the "40 Days" beer brewed by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. / Credit: Kristen Mullen

CNA Staff, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Many Catholics give up beer as part of the penitential rigors of Lent. One diocese is brewing it as part of a Lenten tradition stretching back 400 years.

The Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has launched a beer collaboration with a local brewery to support its anti-hunger programs for the homeless.

The tradition of Lenten beer stretches back centuries. In Bavaria in the 17th century, Paulaner monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer — to sustain them through their strict, no-solid-food fast during the Lenten season. Paulaner is now a global brand and is among the bestselling beers in Germany.

In the spirit of the Paulaner brewers, the Scranton Diocese on its Facebook page earlier this month shared that its “Forty Days” beer collaboration with local Breaker Brewing Company would be launching on Mardi Gras, Feb. 13. 

The Forty Days beer is a doppelbock, the announcement said. A doppelbock, according to CraftBeer.com, is “reminiscent of toasted bread” and may include “dark fruit flavors such as prune and raisin,” depending on the recipe used.

The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen
The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen

The brewery created the beer in collaboration with Father Brian Van Fossen. The priest told CNA this week that he went to high school with Mark Lehman, one of the co-owners of the brewery. 

“Back in November we met about the project and Mark asked me to do some research on the beer,” Van Fossen said.

“Though I thought it was a good idea, the diocese was not able to send Mark and me to Munich to do research on beer, so I went to the computer,” he joked. 

“I discovered a doppelbock beer which was rooted with the Paulaner brothers in Munich, Germany,” he said. “The beer consisted of strong grains and an interesting mixture of hops and barley, which provided a strong nutrient content.” 

The priest said the beer was originally developed as part of the “strict fast of the Paulaner monastery.” The beer “celebrates the history of the Doppelbock beer style and its ties with the Lenten season,” the press release announcing the beer said. 

Breaker Brewing is located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes outside of Scranton. The beer collaboration is meant to help fund the diocese’s “Rectory, Set, Cook!” program to help feed homeless people. 

The diocese announced the launch of that program in 2021. It was billed at the time as Scranton’s “first-ever, all-virtual, cook-off-style fundraiser,” one taking the form of “a friendly online showdown among more than 25 priests.”

“Participating parish priests are starring in individual videos showcasing a favorite recipe or recipes and counting on their flocks and friends far and near to show their support by making monetary donations as small as $10,” the diocese said. “Each $10 donation will represent one vote for a pastor chef or team.”

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to local anti-hunger efforts by Catholic Social Services, including the local St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen “as well as food pantries and programs across the CSS footprint.” 

The diocese continued the program for a third year, and the contest this year took the theme “Collars and Scholars,” with “some of the priests [being] assisted by Catholic school students and other young people.”

Sandy Snyder, the director of foundation relations and special events at the Diocese of Scranton, said that upon launching the program the diocese “considered it experimental and hoped to raise $50,000 to call it a success.” 

“We hit $50,000 pretty quickly, and the momentum just kept going,” she said. “We finished at $171,697 raised in our first year. So we knew there would be a Rectory, Set, Cook! 2023.”

“Last year, we finished at $197,313,” she said. “So this is the year we hope to make Rectory, Set, Cook! a six-figure fundraiser times two and raise more than $200,000, which is important because we’ve added homelessness as a second benefiting cause.” The diocese is focused on building a brand-new permanent shelter in Luzerne County, she said.

Lehman, the co-owner of the brewery, told CNA that the beer was brewed using “Pilsen, Munich, and melanoidin malts with Hallertau hops to balance out the sweetness.” 

“Notes of this medium-brown-hued malty sweet delight is that of toasted bread, slight caramel/toffee, with hints of raisins throughout,” he said.

“The beer was one of the top sellers since its release, competing with another one of our beers for the top slot each day,” Lehman said. “Although we made quite a bit, I believe at this rate, we may not have enough to make it through the 40 days.”

Van Fossen confirmed that the beer is selling “like Lenten fish dinners.” Buyers have ordered the drink from as far away as Maine, he said, allowing the diocese to direct considerable funds to its homeless program. 

“All we need to do is look to the cross,” the priest said. “So if the joy of Lent can be found in a beer while feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless, I think God is being glorified in all things.”