Sunday, September 30, 2007
The celebration took place on the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. In his moving homily the pope recalled that in the early Church – and in Revelations – bishops are referred to as “angels”. Just as angels, explained the pope, bishops must lead humanity to God; they must knock on the door to their hearts to announce Christ; they must heal the wounds of relations between man and woman and save them from sin with reconciliation and forgiveness.
Throughout his entire discourse the pontiff referred to this similitude, starting with the names of the three Archangels, which contains the suffix “El”, which in Hebrew is the name of God. “God – said the pope – is written in their names, in their very nature…. they are His messengers. They bring God to mankind, they reveal the heavens and thus, they reveal earth….. the Angels speak to man about what constitutes his true being, what is often is often covered or buried in his life. They call man to himself, touching him on God’s behalf”. And he added: “In this way even we humans must become angels for one another – angels who lead us from the wrong path and guide us once again towards God…..A bishop must be a man of prayer, who intercedes on behalf of mankind with God”.
Benedict XVI then went on to highlight the characteristics of the three Archangels of the feast (the only ones named in the Bible), illustrating other aspects of the Bishop’s role.
Michael (“Who is as God?”) “defends the cause of the one God against the dragon’s presumption, the “ancient serpent” as his called by John. It is the serpent’s continuous attempts to make men believe that God must disappear, in order for making to obtain greatness; that God stands in the way of our freedom and so we must be rid of Him”.
In reality, explains the pontiff, “he who puts God aside, does not make mankind great, rather he denies mankind his dignity. And thus, man becomes an unsuccessful product of evolution”.
This is why, adds the pope; “it is the Bishop’s duty, as a man of God, to make space in the world for God against those who would negate Him and in doing so defend the greatness of man”. And again: “Faith in God defends man from all of his weaknesses and inadequacies: God’s radiance shines on every individual”.
Gabriel (“Man of God”) is the archangel who announces the Good News to Mary. He said the pope “is the messenger of the incarnation of God. He knocks on Mary’s door …… repeatedly God knocks on the human heart ….. on the world’s door and on the door to the heart of every individual. He knocks waiting to enter”. And turning to the candidates the pope added: “Dear friends, it is your duty to knock on the man’s hearts in Christ’s name. By entering in union with Christ, you will be able to take on Gabriel’s role: bringing Christ’s call to men”.
Raphael (“God heals”) is the archangel healer, protagonist of the Book of Tobias. The pope recalls that Raphael heals the relationship between Tobias and Sarah, marked by the curse of death: “he heals the wounded union between man and woman. He heals their love. He crushes the demons which tine and time again attempt to destroy their love. He purifies the atmosphere between the two and gifts them the ability to welcome and accept one another always”. “In the New Testament – recalls the pontiff – the order of marriage, established in creation and threatened in a multifaceted way by sin, is healed by the fact that Christ gathers it into his redeeming love. He makes marriage a sacrament: His love, which takes on the cross for us, is the saving strength, which in the midst of confusion, gifts us the ability to be reconciled, purifies the atmosphere and heals all wounds”. The bishop (and indeed every priest) “is entrusted with the duty of guiding men towards the reconciling power of Christ’s love. He must be the “healing angel” who helps them to anchor their love to the sacrament and live their love with renewed commitment drawn from the sacrament”.
“The book of Tobias – added the pope – speaks of the healing of blind eyes. We all know that today we are threatened with blindness to God…… healing this blinded through the message of the faith and witness of love, is Raphael’s service which is entrusted each and every day to priests and in a particular way to bishops. Thus we are spontaneously led to think of the sacrament of reconciliation and penitence, which in the deepest meaning of the word, is a healing sacrament. The true wound of the soul, in fact is sin. And only is a forgiveness in virtue of the power of God, in virtue of the power of Christ’s love exists, can we be healed, can we be redeemed”.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Protestant countries. Some stats if you doubt this ...
There are actually only five "Catholic countries" in Africa (i.e. countries in which 50% or more are Catholic). Here are the HIV levels for these 5 countries ...
Equatorial Guinea - 94 % Catholic - 3 % adults with HIV
Burundi - 65 % Catholic - 3 % adults with HIV
Lesotho - 54 % Catholic - 23 % adults with HIV
Congo - 50 % Catholic - 5 % adults with HIV
Angola - 50 % Catholic - 4 % adults with HIV
And here are the countries with the highest HIV levels ...
Swaziland - 33 % adults with HIV - 6 % Catholic
Botswana - 24 % adults with HIV - 5 % Catholic
Lesotho - 23 % adults with HIV - 54 % Catholic
Zimbabwe - 20 % adults with HIV - 9 % Catholic
Namibia - 20 % adults with HIV - 17% Catholic
South Africa - 19 % adults with HIV - 6% Catholic
The fact that Lesotho (the only Catholic country in southern Africa) has a high HIV level like its Protestant neighbours shows that it is geography - and not religious affiliation or Church teaching - that is the determining factor.
Source of HIV data:
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host —
by the Power of God —
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
At one of the South London parishes a few years ago there was a pretty horrifying incident of a man coming into the Church and slashing out with a samurai sword. Sometime later the elderly priest who was celebrating the Mass came and wanted to concelebrate. When I suggested he must of been pretty traumatised by the incident he said he wasn't, because he was quite short sighted and thought it was something the parish Liturgy Group had organised, he just carried on saying Mass.
I couldn't help thinking of this story when I saw this video on the Cafeteria. Fortunately the Lit Com here has all read the Pope's Spirit of the Liturgy, and have never raised the issue of liturgical dance, a couple of members did complain about a Gloria our school children sang with a bit of clapping in it, but here it wasn't the clapping it was the lack of an authentic translation. I must say I thought it was a bit odd with Credo III. I do think there is a serious problem with "adult Church" and what children are given as a norm in our schools.
Today I think of the theological crisis in the Church in fourth century Alexandria when Arianism threatened the very life of Catholicism. Saint Athanasius was bishop and was repeatedly exiled and at the receiving end of all that the ‘orthodoxy’ of the time could hurl at him. But he was repeatedly brought back to Alexandria at the insistence of the laity because they knew instinctively that all was not well in the Church. They had an impatience with the ‘well-formed’ and ‘enlightened’ Catholic opinion of the time. They knew something was wrong. So they rioted and they evicted the Arian bishops.
John Henry Newman used this period as an example of the laity saving orthodoxy. He was derided for this. Mgr Talbot wrote that the laity should stick to fox hunting!
Newman’s belief in the laity supposedly made him a Father of the Second Vatican Council. I am glad he quotes Newman here, Newman saw in the Anglican Church of his time the serious damaging effects of Liberalism. Newman was a father of of the Vatican Council, in that he urged the return to the ancient Fathers of the Church and to scripture, precisely what Pope Benedict is urging. He also spoke of the "sense of the faithful"; that the within the Catholic Church there is an innate sense of what is true. So when in our own age a section of the laity and clergy held out against bien pensant opinion, there were grounds for saying that Traditionalists are children of the Council – empowered laymen and women! I love the fact that Pope Benedict calls the TLM the Mass of the Council.
This is what the Latin Mass Society represents. I think here he means Una Voce, of which the LMS is part. The LMS is the strongest lay Traditional body in the world. Our Society has held a belief for over forty years that the Classical Roman Rite or Usus Antiquior is a treasure and a store of graces as limitless as the skies; as Fr Faber said: "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven."
Without over-stressing its defects, we have always believed that the Rite of 1970 has presented the Church with grave problems – a crisis in short.
That belief was at first an instinct. It was followed by anecdotal and practical evidence – plummeting Mass attendance, dearth of vocations, collapse of religious orders etc. I know that the usual line is that this is a sociological trend but the thing is traddies do have full seminaries and monasteries, and abroad does seem to do an a tremendous amount for you people.
Now, increasingly, liturgical scholarship is showing that much of the theology and ecclesiology of the 1970 Mass must be re-thought – from the orientation of the altar to sloppy thinking about ‘Eucharistic Ministers’ to the rewriting of the Propers and so on. We should be proud that much of this scholarship is based in England and your Society has played a large part in encouraging this. I think this is important, so much liturgical writing and stuff pushed out in dioceses lacks serious scholarship, and for the most part was personal opinion or a preference for a particular strata of liturgical archaeology.
Ultimately our worship and our theology are intertwined and we are winning the theological and philosophical arguments.
FATHER RUTLER: I have met saints. You cannot explain the existence of saints without God. I was nine years chaplain with Mother Teresa [inaudible]. You have called her a whore, a demagogue. She’s in heaven that you don’t believe in, but she’s praying for you. If you do not believe in heaven, that’s why you drink.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Excuse me?
FATHER RUTLER: That’s why you drink. God has offered us happiness, all of us. And you will either die a Catholic or a madman, and I’ll tell you the difference.
Curt Jetor quotes an eyewitness:
“At the end of the event as he staggered, sweating and red faced, out of the room, he [Hitchens] advanced on Father Rutler in a threatening and physical manner, screaming that this beloved pastor and brilliant scholar whom he had never met was `a child molester and a lazy layabout who never did a day’s work in his life’. His behavior was so frightening that a bodyguard put himself between Hitchens and Father Rutler to protect him. Several of the event organizers then escorted Hitchens to the men’s room and when he emerged he continued his psychotic rant, repeating the same calumnious and baseless screed as before. It was then that Father Rutler, in the most charitable manner, told Hitchens [for the second time] that he will `either die a madman or a Roman Catholic’. … Unless he faces his alcoholism soon, I am betting on the ‘madman’ ending for him.”
"A new course specifically for foreign priests wishing to serve the Catholic Church in England and Wales has just started at the northern seminary of Ushaw in Durham. The three week induction programme, endorsed and recommended by the bishops of England and Wales, aims to provide the priests with practical advice and information that will enable them to integrate into UK life and make effective use of their pastoral skills in an alien culture. " fair enough.
But then there is this ominous paragraph: Students will look at issues affecting the Church in England and Wales in the third millennium – power, authority, the role of women, lay/diaconal ministry, ecumenism and much more. This is important preparation for future pastoral work and liturgical celebrations.
What could it mean?
I get a little worried when with special pleading for England and Wales, ever since Cardinal Hume said that the document "On the Unordained Faithful" did not apply in England and Wales.
There is something unhealthy about the way in which the Church in England and Wales cuts itself off from mainstream Catholic culture especially when talking about power and authority.
I have always assumed being a "good priest" in England was the same as being a good priest anywhere else.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Although he is known today primarily as a preacher and theologian, St. John Chrysostom was a great reformer during his tenure as Bishop of Constantinople, the Pope said. "The austerity of the episcopal palace" set the tone of dedication that he expected from his clergy. At the same time, the great preacher was also known as a great alms-giver, who established new charitable initiatives in his diocese.
As a pastor of souls, St. John Chrysostom "always showed tender concern for women, and took special interest interest in marriage and the family," the Pope continued. He was deeply involved in liturgical questions, setting the standards for the liturgy that is still used in the Byzantine churches. And he was active in the political world whenever that was required for the welfare of the faithful. His political involvement, in fact, led eventually to conflicts with the regime, and he died in exile in 407.
Returning to the theological insights of the saint, who is honored by both Catholic and Orthodox believers as a doctor of the Church, the Pope told the 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's square that St. John Chrysostom emphasized the understanding that God is a "tender Father," offering infinite love to each of his human children.
The reality of God's love transforms mankind, St. John Chrysostom taught, and gives Christians a radically new vision. Pope Benedict observed: "Chrysostom understood that it was not enough to give alms, to help the poor one case at a time, rather that it was necessary to create a new structure, a new model for society." In that sense, the Pontiff said, "we may consider him as one of the great Fathers of the Church's social doctrine."
The use of relics has some, although limited, basis in sacred Scripture. In 2 Kings 2:9-14, the prophet Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah after Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. With this Elisha struck the water of the Jordan, which then parted so that he could cross. In another passage (13:20-21), some people hurriedly bury a dead man in the grave of Elisha, "but when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet." In the Acts of the Apostles we read, "Meanwhile, God worked extraordinary miracles at the hands of Paul. When handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases were cured and evil spirits departed from them" (19:11-12). In these three passages, a reverence was given to the actual body or clothing of these very holy people who were indeed God's chosen instruments—Elijah, Elisha and St. Paul. Indeed, miracles were connected with these "relics"—not that some magical power existed in them, but just as God's work was done through the lives of these holy men, so did His work continue after their deaths. Likewise, just as people were drawn closer to God through the lives of these holy men, so did they (even if through their remains) inspire others to draw closer even after their deaths. This perspective provides the Church's understanding of relics.
I have often wondered whether the detail in the Gospels regarding the two clothes in the tomb is reference to two relics prized by the early Church; remember Peter’s house at Capernaum seems to have been a shrine from the first century onwards.
At the martyrdom of St Polycarp, “who was a disciple of John, who was a disciple of Jesus, the Christ” people brought cloths to soak up his blood and seem to have taken them home, his body in a tomb that became a place of prayer and pilgrimage. From very beginning of Christianity the bodies of the Apostles, especially Peter and Paul at Rome, seem to have been treated with great veneration. Even in cultures that cremated their dead Christian opted for burial, the belief in Resurrection of the body, seemed to ensure that the dead, especially the faithful dead were a direct link with Christ, the eastward alignment of bodies invariable identifies them as being Christian. The bodies of the Martyrs most especially were venerated; it seems that they were seen as “making up in [their] own bodies whatever was lacking in the sufferings of Christ”. I am sure that their early connection with the Holy Eucharist and the consecration of altars is part of an early affirmation of, if not the Real Presence, the Real re-Presentation of the Suffering of Calvary.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
It was reading Foster as a young Evangelical that I first encountered the claim that fasting is a normative part of the Christian life: After all, Our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount said to his followers "When you fast," not "if"; and in Mark 2 Jesus declared that while His disciples could not fast while He, the Bridegroom, was among them, in the days when the Bridegroom would be taken away, "then they will fast."
Later, as I learned more about the early Fathers, I discovered the Didache, one of the earliest extrabiblical Christian texts (possibly as early as 70 AD), which records that Christians in the apostolic Church fasted twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays (in contradistinction to the practice of the "hypocrites," which was to fast Mondays and Thursdays).
Even so, for many Christians, fasting continues to be a somewhat exotic or unfamiliar practice, perhaps carrying a suspicious whiff of works-righteousness or something of the sort. Why do we fast? How can we explain it to others?
What follows below the fold is my attempt, originally written for and posted in a non-Catholic Christian forum, to brief sum up what I understand to be the basics regarding the place of fasting in Christian spirituality as a form of penance and asceticism. Additional thoughts, insights, corrections and comments are welcome.
As a foundation of Christian ascesis, fasting is a form of self-denial, of sacrifice. What differentiates sacrifice from the self-discipline of the moral life is this: In the moral life we forgo temptations or self-indulgences that are actually wrong or bad for us, but in the sacrifice and self-denial of Christian ascesis we voluntarily give up what is good in itself, just as the Israelites made offerings to God of the best from their flock.
By willingness to give up for God what is good as well as what is bad, we affirm and practice attachment to God and detachment from created things, even created things that are lawful in themselves. Like soldiers training for war, we practice doing without and denying ourselves, in part to strengthen our capacity to choose to do without and deny ourselves when it counts. Like sacrifice in the Old Testament, self-denial is also a form of penance before God, of expressing sorrow for sin and offering something to God in token of contrition, suffering in union with the sufferings of Christ (cf. Rom 8:17).
Christian ascesis takes for granted that the human creature is damaged goods out of the box, not conforming to original manufacturer specs, and that our failures and sins in this world further knock us out of whack. Ascesis is part of an apprenticeship in self-mastery, and we need to begin by realizing that mastery of ourselves is not the default.
We do not start off automatically in charge of ourselves and able to direct our feet on the path we wish. We are a spoiled brat, a recalcitrant donkey. We need whipping into shape. We need boot camp. We need to be made uncomfortable, to be pushed where we don't want to go. We need to acquire stick-to-it-iveness, to strengthen our weakened will and develop the resolve to finish what we have started.
Our appetites are inflamed and disordered; our volition is weak and vacillating; our intellect is darkened and forgetful. This sorry condition is known in the Christian anthropology of the West as concupiscence.
To follow Christ, it is not enough to start where we are, swear off our bad habits, and merely set about avoiding sin and actively offending God. We are flabby, soft, wheezing, lazy. Like a couch potato signing up at the gym, we have fine intentions for a week or two, but easily fall off the wagon, as unprepared for battle as ever we were.
There is also a mystical dimension to fasting. By turning away from the needs of our human organism, we become more aware that we are more than organisms. Just as we listen more attentively when we close our eyes, so when we put aside food we become more aware of spiritual things.
St. Paul speaks of those whose god is their belly. Even when your belly is not your god, turning away from your belly can open your eyes and ears to God in a new way. Although Christian anthropology teaches no Cartesian dualism between spirit and flesh, in this mortal world separation from the body stands between us and union with God, and fasting is a form of preparation or practicing for death, of putting aside the flesh.
Besides fasting from food, other important forms of Christian ascesis include abstention from sleep (called "watching") and from sex (especially, I think, in the Eastern tradition), as well as the special calling of celibacy.
Christian ascesis is inseparable from prayer. Just doing without food is only dieting, and just doing without sleep is only being a workaholic.
Finally, in addition to fasting and prayer, Christian tradition names almsgiving as a third indispensable form of penance (CCC 1434).
The BBC website currently has a piece on hybrid embryos with a poll. The question is
"Should hybrid embryos be used for research?"which, of course misses the point of whether they should be created in the first place. Nevertheless, worth a few moments to cast your "No" vote. Currently 48.25% yes, 44.57% no and 7.17% don't know. 18232 votes cast so, if my maths are correct, if 700 readers vote "no", we will tip the balance...
LONDON, SEPT. 23, 2007, (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith denied approval of the statues of the Community of the Divine Innocence, reports the Archdiocese of Southwark.
Archbishop Kevin McDonald released a statement Friday reporting the decision of the doctrinal congregation, along with the note issued by the dicastery entitled "Observations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Writings of Mrs. Patricia de Menezes and the Community of the Divine Innocence."
The observations were communicated to the archbishop of Southwark on July 16, by the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato.
In his statement, Archbishop McDonald explained that the Community of Divine Innocence was founded by Patricia de Menezes, who lives in the diocese of Southwark.
"The group's spirituality and beliefs," he said, "are based on divine revelations that de Menezes claims to have received. A distinctive feature of the Divine Innocence -- and something that de Menezes claims was revealed to her -- is that all children who are aborted should be proclaimed by the Church as martyrs and be seen as companion martyrs of the first Holy Innocents."
The archbishop said that since its founding interest in the group has spread, and so have inquiries into the validity of the apparitions.
In 2001 the archdiocese issued a public statement that clarified that "the authenticity of the alleged apparitions concerning Divine Innocence has not been accepted by the Archdiocese of Southwark and the archdiocese has not given its authority to publicly promote it."
Archbishop McDonald added: "When inquiries were made about the status of the Divine Innocence, the answer given was that individuals have no authority to meet publicly as a group known as Divine Innocence because this would indicate public acceptance by the competent authorities of the alleged apparitions and that has not been given."
Meanwhile, the Community of the Divine Innocence prepared statutes for their community and submitted these and other documentation to the Holy See for approval.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the request of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, conducted an in-depth study of the Divine Innocence.
The conclusion of this study was that the congregation was not convinced by the substantial content of the messages allegedly communicated to de Menezes.
The note names four particular areas of concern: the exaggerated claims made for the Community of Divine Innocence; the inappropriate words and phrases attributed to Jesus; the questionable demand made concerning the status of aborted children; the intemperate language used in the "Inspirations" when attacking Church authority.
The dicastery concludes: "Given the supposed revelations which ground the spirituality of the Community of Divine Innocence are highly questionable, it follows that the community's spirituality is flawed at its root.
"Because this spirituality thoroughly animates the community's proposed constitution, it cannot be approved."
Archbishop McDonald echoed the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in his statement: "It must be clearly stated that the Divine Innocence has no recognition or approval whatsoever either from the diocese of Southwark or the Holy See and that there is no ecclesiastical approbation for Catholics to meet as the group known as Divine Innocence.
"Finally, I am aware that many devout people, deeply committed to the pro-life movement, have become involved with the Divine Innocence.
"I wish to encourage them in their work and prayer but in view of the observations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this must no longer be in the context of the organization or spirituality of the Divine Innocence."
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I hate Tiscali, don't sign up with them! They are useless!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Vienna (AsiaNews) – Sunday is an “interior necessity” for Christians, but also for all of the west where activism has reduced rest to time that is “free ….. and empty”, and with is exploitation of natural resources ahs exposed God’s creation to “multiple dangers”: with these Christian, ecological and human motivations Benedict XVI reaffirmed the value of Sunday as a day of rest , of “encounter with the Lord”, of humanity’s recreation from a society such as Austria’s – and many others – which seeks to reduce Sunday to yet another day of commercial trade or another “empty” day.
The pope was speaking in the splendid setting of Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral, on the last day of his pilgrimage in Austria, in the presence of tens of thousands of people, inside and outside of the Church, beneath a humid and rainy sky.
“Sunday – said the pontiff, has been transformed in our Western societies into the week-end, into leisure time. Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus – the encounter with him who is our origin and goal”.
This is why, for us Christians the Eucharistic celebration is not “a precept, but an interior necessity”; “Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish”; “We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God’s creative love, from which we come and towards which we are travelling”.
This re-discovering Christ, the foundation of our lives, of his “interior dignity and …. beauty” is spread throughout the entire week and in daily reality: “Sunday is also the Church’s weekly feast of creation – the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God’s creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too. Then, for the early Church, the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God’s rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God’s creatures”.
The other theme discussed by Benedict XVI in his homily was the radical nature of the mission of the disciples of Jesus. Referring to today’s Gospel (anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple”, Luke 14,…) he explained that this Christ’s request is addressed to some people in particular, above all the 12 disciples: “The Twelve must first of all overcome the scandal of the Cross…… they must be prepared to assume the seemingly absurd task of travelling to the ends of the earth and, with their minimal education, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world filled with claims to erudition and with real or apparent education – and naturally also to the poor and the simple” even to the point of “martyrdom”. But he adds “Jesus calls people of all times to count exclusively on him, to leave everything else behind, so as to be totally available for him, and hence totally available for others: to create oases of selfless love in a world where so often only power and wealth seem to count for anything”. Among these radical witness the pope cites saints, both male and (many) female : Benedict, Scolastica, Elisabeth of Hungary, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Padre Pio.
However the pontiff also underlined that “losing one’s life” is indeed the best way to “win it back”: “Whoever wants to keep his life just for himself will lose it. Only by giving ourselves do we receive our life. In other words: only the one who loves discovers life. And love always demands going out of oneself, it demands leaving oneself. Anyone who looks just to himself, who wants the other only for himself, will lose both himself and the other. Without this profound losing of oneself, there is no life. The restless craving for life, so widespread among people today, leads to the barrenness of a lost life. “Whoever loses his life for my sake … ”, says the Lord: a radical letting-go of our self is only possible if in the process we end up, not by falling into the void, but into the hands of Love eternal”.
“If we belong to God, who is the power above all powers, - concluded the pope - then we are fearless and free”.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The injection rallied Pius XI for the saS and solemn ministrations reserved, by centuries of tradition, for the last moments of a Pope. To Lorenzo Cardinal Lauri, Grand Penitentiary of the Holy Roman Church, Pius XI, propped up by pillows, whispered his confession, received absolution for his sins. Then attendants washed the Pope's face, hands and feet for their anointing in the last rite: extreme unction. The Monsignor Sacristan, Alfonso de Romanis, parish priest of the Vatican, sprinkled the still room and its grave company with holy water. "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, 0 Lord, and I shall be cleansed. . . "
With holy oil Monsignor de Romanis touched the Pope's closed eyes. "By this holy unction and His most loving mercy may the Lord pardon thee whatever thou hast sinned by sight." The dying man's ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet by holy unction were shrived. With the others' low voices joining in the responses, Monsignor de Romanis prayed: "Make safe Thy servant, my God, who trusts in Thee. Send him, 0 Lord, help from Thy holy place, and defend him out of Zion. . . ."
The dying man's breathing grew shallower. In deep emotion Cardinal Pacelli cried: "Holy Father, give us your blessing!"
Often we hear the different Masses described in the media with something like, "the Tridentine Mass is celebrated in Latin with the priest's back to the people, and the New Mass is celebrated in English with the priest facing the people." This is an oversimplification that is not accurate.
The New Mass can be celebrated in Latin at any time. And, as was our experience when we went to Europe for World Youth Day two years ago, it sometimes happens that it is also celebrated in English, but not facing the people. Ultimately, it is not the language or the direction the priest is facing that is the important thing. It is the ritual being followed, in other words, what are called the rubrics. The New Mass has greatly simplified rubrics compared to the Tridentine Mass.
However, the issue of which direction the priest faces is important, historically. In Judaism, the direction of prayer is always to face Jerusalem. For Muslims, the direction of prayer is always to face Mecca. For Christians, especially for Catholics, the direction of prayer has always been to face the East. I wonder how many of our people even realize that. And why might that be important?
It was to the East that Jesus ascended into heaven. And the angels present that day told the apostles that He would return in the same way that they saw Him going up. Therefore, Catholics always prayed facing the East as a way of waiting for the return of the Lord in glory. And the priest stood with his back to the people, not turned away from them, but leading the entire congregation in prayer. He stood at their head, so to speak, leading the assembly in worship of God.
Contrary to popular opinion, Mass facing the people is a totally modern invention. It was not the way Mass was celebrated in the early church. and the disadvantage of Mass celebrated this way is that we can too easily forget that the entire Mass is a prayer to God, led by the priest. The danger is that the community can too easily turn inward on itself, rather than facing and anticipating the coming of the Lord.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
In an exigent and a clear proposal Benedict XVI today invited the young people gathered on the Montorso plain between Loreto and the Adriatic sea, to a lifestyle that “goes against the trend”, to transform society by following the “humble” example of Mary. In his homily during mass concluding the Youth Agorà, he said: “Do not follow the path of pride, rather, follow the path of humility” Go against the trend: do not listen to that chorus of bias and persuasive voices which today put forward a model of life that is drenched in arrogance and violence, in dominance and success at all costs, where appearance and possession to the detriment of others is openly promoted. All of these messages carried by the mass media are aimed at you! Be vigilant! Be critical! Do not follow the trend produced by this powerfully persuasive media. Do not be afraid, my dear friends, to prefer the ‘alternative’ route indicated by true love: a sober style of life, a life of solidarity; an honest commitment to your studies and work; a cultivated interest in the common good. Do not be afraid to appear different, or the criticism that you are out of fashion or a loser; people your age, even adults, all of those who seem far from the mentality of the Gospel values, have a deep seated need to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity manifested by Jesus Christ”.
The pope’s words met with the warm applause of the immense crowd gathered on the plain. Yesterday alone, over 300 thousand people for the vigil; this morning, the arrival of thousands more young people pushing the numbers up to touch half a million. Many of them spent the night in the open, in prayer and meditation or in dialogue, helped by the “fountains of light”, illuminated meeting points placed at intervals throughout the plain, where priests and catechists were present to listen, hear confessions, speak about vocations, until first light appeared and the Morning Prayer said.
The courage of humility
What Benedict XVI proposed is a veritable way of life for anyone who wishes to remain “young”. Yesterday evening during the vigil the testimonies of some young people laid bare the difficulties and insecurities, the marginalization and unemployment linked to the world of the young. Today the pope affirmed that “Jesus has a special preference for the young” and that God himself “seeks young hearts …. To become the protagonists of the New Alliance”.
The pope’s programme for young people is taken from Mary’s “youth” and has at its foundation her humility. Recalling the nearby sanctuary of Loreto, where stones from the Holy House of Nazareth are preserved he affirmed: “the Holy House of Nazareth is the sanctuary of humility: the humility of God who became flesh and of Mary who welcomed him to her womb”.
The pope is not afraid of showing the stark opposition between the ideals of the world and Christianity: “The humble – he says – are perceived as being defeated and beaten, people who have nothing to offer the world. Yet this is the master route, not only because humility is a great virtue, but because above all it represents the very way in which God himself behaves. It is the path chosen by Christ”. And after having underlined the necessity of a witness that “goes against the trend”, he adds: “My dear friends, the path of humility is not the path of renunciation, it is the path of true courage. It is not the result of a defeat but of victory of love over selfishness and of grace over sin. In following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility”.
The “new paths” which the young people need to follow imply the ability to say “yes to God”, from who “all the yes of our lives” descend. There is also something new in our view of the faith and of the Church: “Our faith does is not merely a list of moral prerogatives, rather, it is a glorious journey towards the light of our Yes to God. It is true; there are many great challenges ahead of you. The first of which remains the challenge of following Christ to the very depths, without reservations, without compromise. Following Christ means being a living part of his body, which is the Church. You cannot call yourself a disciple of Jesus if you do not love and follow his Church”.
The Church (which is not a “power centre”, he had said last night) is a place which unites, not for “success”, but for “the good of humanity, a good which is both authentic and shared, and which does not subsist in power or possession, but in being”. These radical decisions are necessary in order to build “the city of God with man, a city which grows contemporarily from the ground up and from Heaven downwards, because it develops in the encounter and collaboration between man and God”. ( Ap 21,2-3)”.
Stewards of creation
In building “a more just and sharing society, where everyone can enjoy the fruits of the earth”, the pontiff indicates one priority: that of “safeguarding creation”. “The future of the planet – said the pope – “is in the hands of the new generations, a planet where the signs of a development that has not always protected the delicate equilibrium of nature, can be seen. Before it is too late, we must take courageous steps, to recreate the alliance between man and earth. We need to say yes to safeguarding creation, we must decidedly commit ourselves to invert those tendencies which risk bringing about irreversible degradation”. In fact today the Italian Church celebrates the National Day for the protection of creation, dedicated to water, “a precious good, which if not peacefully and equally shared, is destined to become a motive for tension and bitter conflict”.
And after having invited the young people once again – just as last night – to participate in the World Youth Day Sydney 2008, the pope turned to the Blessed Virgin: “In the end …..We turn our eyes towards Mary, model of humility and of courage. Help us, Virgin of Nazareth, to be docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, as you were; help us to become ever more saintly, disciples in love with your Son Jesus Christ; sustain and accompany these young people so that they may be joyful and tireless missionaries of the Gospel among their contemporaries, in every corner of Italy. Amen!”
At the end of his homily, the applause, waving of banners, scarves and the shouting of slogans lasted so long that the pope was forced to ask for silence in order to continue the mass.
In the Angelus, the pontiff returned once again to underlining the bond between Loreto and Nazareth, the place of the annunciation to Mary: “Loreto second only to Nazareth, is the ideal place to pray and meditate on the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God….the place where the Virgin said ‘yes’ to God and conceived in her womb the eternal incarnate Word”.
The pope recalled that every “agorà”, every public moment, needs a “home”, a place of contemplation: “The town square is big, it is open, it is the meeting place for many for dialogue and confrontation; the home, instead, is the place of inner gathering and silence, where the Word can be heard in its depths. In order to bring God to the town square, first you must gather him to your inner being at home, just like Mary in the Annunciation”. And he adds that likewise” the home must open out onto the square: this is further suggested by the Holy House in Loreto, which has three walls not four: it is an open Home, open on the world, open to life and even to the Agorà of young Italians”.
The last proposal made by the pope is that Loreto become a constant reference point in the lives of the young: “In the most important moment of your lives come here, at least in your hearts, to gather yourselves spiritually between the walls of the Holy House…. Then will you become its true witnesses in the ‘squares’, in society, bringers of a Gospel that is not abstract, but incarnated in your own lives”.
Confirming this commitment to witnessing God in society, at the end of the mass 72 young people from diocese across Italy received the missionary Mandate of the Italian Agorà, to bring the faith “with joy and gratitude” throughout the world. The pope bestowed on them the so-called “pilgrims sackcloth”, distributed by two bishops.
In trains, buses and on foot, groups of pilgrims from across Italy, as well as some from Poland, Germany and elsewhere made their way to a dusty field down the hill from Italy's most important shrine to the Virgin Mary.
Benedict answered their questions about faith and, after hearing about the lives of young people living in broken homes and on the margins of society, told the crowd that the church and the family unit should be the nuclei of society.
"The family, which should be the meeting place between generations, from grandparents to grandchildren . . . is breaking up in pieces," the Pope said.
Late yesterday, Benedict was heading to the shrine itself for a moment of prayer. The shrine, known as the Holy House, is a simple stone cottage that Catholic tradition says was the home in Nazareth where the Virgin Mary grew up and was told she would bear Jesus.
Loreto is the city of the "Holy House of Nazareth", which seems to have been brought stone by stone from the Holy Land, just before the Christian Kingdom of Palestine was destroyed by Muslim invasion. The later legend says it was brought by angels.
State-controlled media outlets in Zimbabwe have been providing heavy coverage of charges that Archbishop Ncube engaged in an adulterous affair with a woman who had been working as his secretary. His supporters say that the charges have been raised to distract attention from the archbishop's complaints about the authoritarian government headed by President Robert Mugabe.
In a paid advertisement that appeared in the Herald newspaper in Harare, the nation's capital, the members of the nation's episcopal conference said that the archbishop was being attacked in an effort to undermine his moral leadership. "We support him fully in his present painful personal situation and ask all our faithful to remember him in their prayers," the bishops said.
Noting that the entire episcopal conference has joined in a public condemnation of government corruption, and a demand for immediate changes in the country's political leadership, the bishops' conference went on to say that Archbishop Ncube-- who has called for the ouster of the Mugabe regime-- has "courageously and with moral authority advocated social justice and political action to overcome the grievous crisis facing our country."
The public campaign against Archbishop Ncube, the bishops conclude, is really "an assault on the Catholic Church."