Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Madrid Cardinal says religion is greatest unifying factor in Europe

~From Catholic News Agency

Madrid, May. 31, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview for a new book on Europe since the end of the Cold War, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco of Madrid has stated that “religion is the greatest unifying factor in Europe, and the Catholic Church is the greatest unifying phenomenon in the European Union.”

According to the cardinal, the cultural and educational values of Europe all have Catholic underpinnings and therefore have enormous unifying force. “A living Christianity and a young and committed Catholic Church would be an invaluable and irreplaceable contribution to the future of the European Union. It would be a sort of religious, ethical and spiritual roadmap,” he said.

Because of these shared values and traditions, Cardinal Rouco noted, traveling from one’s own country to another in Europe does not give one the feeling of being in a foreign land.

“Europe must be built from the bottom up,” he said, “starting with friendships, personal communication and deeper roots such as religion and spirituality, and from there move on to sports, culture and tourism. This is very important if we want to build up Europe,” the cardinal stated.

He also maintained that the more principles of unity and solidarity are embraced in European political life the better. “For example, the principle of subsidiarity is steeped in Catholic tradition, which has much importance in building up Europe. The rich variety of Europe cannot be allowed to disappear, but there must be a balance.”

Cardinal Rouco said European Catholicism is one of the most “positive” challenges of Pope Benedict XVI. “After the collapse of the wall a Catholic world with a strong presence has emerged in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Romania and also somewhat in the Balkans. John Paul II was decisive in encouraging and nurturing the new youth movements” to bring the hope of renewal to the Catholic faith throughout Europe. Now, the cardinal said, Benedict XVI “has a challenge with an excellent future.”

Old is New

Eric Sheske, of The Daily Eudemon and a contributing editor for GodSpy has written about the rise of new monasteries in Old is New found at The Catholic Exchange.
These days, you don’t hear much about the monks. There was a small renaissance when the Trappist Thomas Merton published The Seven Storey Mountain in 1948, but other than that, you simply don’t hear about them.

So I was delighted when I received the current issue of Gilbert Magazine. The cover story is by the country’s most-recognized expert on G.K. Chesterton, Dale Ahlquist, and entitled, “A Visit to Clear Creek Monastery.” With the theme "Whenever monks come back, marriages will come back" (a GKC quote), Ahlquist discusses the rise of a new monastery in the foothills of the Ozarks in eastern Oklahoma.

Ahlquist refers to it as “a new old monastery.” Its monks appear to be mainly Americans, who entered the Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault in France years ago. After more than two decades of formation, they came back to America and established a monastery on a 1,000-acre parcel in the Tulsa diocese, far off the beaten path.

But though it’s off the beaten path, it is attracting others. In Ahlquist’s words, “It is the same thing that happened whenever a monastery was built in Europe. Famlies start moving to the surrounding area and settling in. They want to be close to a monastery. They realize that this ‘silent center’ is the center of faith, but also of culture. This is where they want to raise their children.”

It’s beautiful stuff.

But the thing I found most fascinating about the story is this: These men are progeny of John Senior's humanities program at the University of Kansas a few decades ago. Senior advanced an intelligent, radical, and Catholic view of civilization. And he did so convincingly, so much so that his students starting converting and some entered convents and monasteries. I remember reading elsewhere that parents complained to the U of K administration about the alleged brainwashing (read: "brain cleaning”). The program was subsequently terminated — but not before Senior sowed some seeds. And the seeds have sprouted a strong plant in eastern Oklahoma.

And it’s a strong plant with roots in the old ways. And in that, the monastery is radical: by reverting to the old-fashioned — the tried and true for millennia — it’s slashing against the roots of modernity. In this, it’s on the cutting edge.
Read the complete article

Summer Reading List

~Powerline has a list of contenders for the Great American Novel. It looks like the beginnings of a summer reading list. How many of these have you read?
Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Melville, Moby-Dick
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
James, Portrait of a Lady
Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Cather, My Antonia
Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Warren, All the King's Men
Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
Ellison, Invisible Man
Chandler, The Long Goodbye
Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Updike, Rabbit, Run
Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
Heller, Catch-22
Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Nabokov, Pale Fire
Roth, The Great American Novel
In today's update, they've lamented leaving out Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. What's on your summer reading list?

George Weigel: Tales from Vienna Woods

~Via Denver Catholic Register
And the 21st century? Ours, Professor Brague said, is the century of the question of being-and-nothingness — the century of the metaphysical question.

Which may sound extremely abstract, but is, in fact, very concrete. For if nothing is “given” in the human condition, then everything is up-for-grabs. If, to take a salient example on both sides of the Atlantic, maleness and femaleness are mere “social constructs,” then “marriage” can mean anything someone wants it to mean, including not only “gay marriage” but polygamy and polyandry — and to deny that is an act of irrational bigotry.

Brague, who knows a great deal about Islamic philosophy, knows all about the threat to the West from jihadist Islam. In Vienna, however, he insisted that nihilism – a soured cynicism about the mystery and wonder of being — is the prior enemy-within-the-gates. For nihilism leads to deep skepticism about the human capacity to know the truth of anything; skepticism leads to what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger described on April 18, 2005, as the “dictatorship of relativism;” and relativism is a solvent eating away the foundations of western self-understanding, western civilizational morale — and the western capacity for intelligent self-defense.

An Enlightenment intellectual, cited by Professor Brague, once said that he didn’t have children because begetting children was a criminal act — a matter of condemning another human being to death, to oblivion. That is the kind of nihilism that lies beneath Europe’s demographic suicide of recent decades. That is the kind of nihilism that occupies some of the commanding heights of American culture. That is the kind of nihilism that makes the defense of western civilization difficult today — and would make it impossible tomorrow, were it to triumph culturally.

The very goodness of life, the goodness of being — that is The Issue beneath all the other issues of the 21st century. So suggested Rémi Brague. I’m afraid he’s right.

George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.

General Audience: May mankind reject racial hatred in memory of Auschwitz

Pope Benedict XVI touches a sick faithful during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 31, 2006. Benedict XVI followed up his visit to Auschwitz with a call Wednesday for the world to resist the 'temptation of racial hatred,'' saying it was at the root of anti-Semitism. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

~Via Asia News

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The journey to Poland, especially the memory of horrors evoked during the visit to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, were recalled by Benedict XVI in his first general audience since returning from Krakow.

Addressing 35,000 people in St Peter’s Square, the pope thus remembered Auschwitz once again. The words he spoke today revealed the inconsistency of attempts at controversy that followed his dramatic address on Sunday in Birkenau camp. Benedict XVI explicitly mentioned six million Jews killed in the Shoah, he condemned “racial hatred” and hence anti-Semitism, reiterating that he saw the Nazism project as a bid to “eliminate God to take his place”, God who instead “calls us all in Christ to build a world of justice, truth and peace” in shared fatherhood. And all Christians, he added, should feel a commitment to testify to the firmness of their faith, “to avoid that mankind of the third millennium will ever again know such horrors like those tragically evoked by the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau”.

“Faced with the horror of Auschwitz – in fact – there is no other response other than the Cross of Christ: Love that descended to the depths of evil to save man at the source, where his freedom could rebel against God. Let modern humanity not forget Auschwitz and the other ‘factories of death’ in which the Nazi regime sought to eliminate God to take his place! Let mankind not cede to the temptation of racial hatred, which is at the root of the worst forms of anti-Semitism! May men recognize that God is the Father of all and all are called in Christ to build a world of justice, truth and peace together!”

Talking about his trip to Poland, Benedict XVI first drew particular attention to the journey made in the footsteps of the life of the “priest and bishop Karol Wojtyla”. Among the steps remembered, he mentioned Wadiwice, “the place that became famous because Karol Wojtyla was born and baptized there”, saying: “Visiting offered me the opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of this tireless servant of the Gospel. The roots of his robust faith, of his humanity, so sensitive and open, of his love for beauty and truth, of his devotion to Our Lady, of his love for the Church and especially of his vocation to holiness, are in this town, where he received his initial education and formation.”

Finally, recalling the concluding celebration of the visit on Sunday morning in Krakow, the pope described it as a “liturgical meeting animated by extraordinary participation of the faithful, in the very Park where the night before a meeting was held with youth. I took the opportunity to renew among the Poles the stupendous proclamation of Christian truth about man, created and redeemed by Christ; that truth that John Paul II proclaimed so many times with vigour, to encourage all to be strong in faith, hope and love.”

Chinese Catholics mourn Archbishop Li Duan

~Via Asia News

Gongyi (AsiaNews) – An enormous crowd of over 20,000 people took part in the procession and funeral of the Archbishop of Xian, Monsignor Anthony Li Duan, who died last Thursday, May 25. His successor, Monsignor Anthony Dang Mingyan, presided the rite and described the deceased bishop as “a living monument of the Church in China.” Archbishop Li Duan, ordained in 1987, was one of the four bishops invited by Benedict XVI to the Synod of the Eucharist in October 2005, none of whom received government permission to go to Rome. Considered by many to be the in pectore cardinal chosen by John Paul II, Archbishop Li was very well-known and highly regarded for his efforts in weaving reconciliatory relations between the official and underground Church and between the official Church and the Holy See.


Marian Prayer of Cardinal Newman

O Mother of Jesus, and my Mother, let me dwell with you, cling to you and love you with ever-increasing love. I promise the honor, love and trust of a child. give me a mother's protection, for I need your watchful care. You know better than any other the thoughts and desires of the Sacred Heart. Keep constantly before my mind the same thoughts, the same desires, that my heart may be filled with zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart of your Divine Son. Instill in me a love of all that is noble, that I may no longer be easily turned to selfishness.

Help me, dearest Mother, to acquire the virtues that God wants of me: to forget myself always, to work solely for him, without fear of sacrifice. I shall always rely on your help to be what Jesus wants me to be. I am his; I am yours, my good Mother! Give me each day your holy and maternal blessing until my last evening on earth, when your Immaculate Heart will present me to the heart of Jesus in heaven, there to love and bless you and your divine Son for all eternity.

The Feast of the Visitation

~From The Cathedral Daily Missal

The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady's greeting; Elizabeth's proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and "blessed among women"; Mary's singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat ("My soul doth magnify the Lord") which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church. The Visitation is frequently depicted in art, and was the central mystery of St. Francis de Sales' devotions.

The Mass of today salutes her who in her womb bore the King of heaven and earth, the Creator of the world, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Sun of Justice. It narrates the cleansing of John from original sin in his mother's womb. Hearing herself addressed by the most lofty title of "Mother of the Lord" and realizing what grace her visit had conferred on John, Mary broke out in that sublime canticle of praise proclaiming prophetically that henceforth she would be venerated down through the centuries:

"My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, And holy is His name" (Lk. 1:46).

This feast is of medieval origin, it was kept by the Franciscan Order before 1263, and soon its observance spread throughout the entire Church. Previously it was celebrated on July 2. Now it is celebrated between the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the birth of St. John the Baptist, in conformity with the Gospel accounts. Some places appropriately observe a celebration of the reality and sanctity of human life in the womb. The liturgical color is white.


Magnificat anima mea Dominum
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ: ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius.
Et misericordia eius a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in bracchio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes,
Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiæ suæ,
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini eius in sæcula.

+ + +

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm.
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things.
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.

Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord working in her soul

~by St. Bede the Venerable

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race.

When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power and greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation.

These words are often for all God’s creations, but especially for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.

For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.

She did well to add: and holy is his name, to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the name she spoke of earlier: and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.

Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Top 10 Strangest Gadgets of the Future

~Hat tip to Fr. Tucker for pointing to these Wacky Gadgets

I'm sure you have to have one of these transparent toasters:

There's nothing like watching carbon molecules appear on the surface of your toast. You'll have perfect toast each time.

Or how about one of these origami DVD players that folds up and takes up very little space:

When you get bored in lecture class, you could unfold one of these and discreetly watch Terminator 15 or Pirates of the Caribbean 10.

And no self-respecting man should go without one of these self-cooling beer cans:

Summer's right around the corner and what better way to have cold beer anytime you want without lugging around a clunky cooler.

To see other future gadgets, click here. Makes you wonder what necessity gave rise to these inventions.

Justices refuse atheist father's challenge to Boy Scout recruiting

One for the good guys!

~by AP via First Amendment Center

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court turned away an appeal today from an atheist father who wanted to end recruiting by the Boy Scouts organization at his son's public school.

John Scalise had asked the Court to bar public schools from opening their doors to Boy Scout recruiters and promoting membership, arguing that the group discriminates against nonreligious boys and parents by denying membership unless they swear to religious oaths.

Scalise's dispute with the Scouts dates back to 1998, when his son was a third-grader in Michigan.

He claims he and his son were barred from a Scout program at the elementary school because they would not pledge "to do my duty to God and my country." Father and son are nonreligious humanists.

Michigan courts ruled that the school-Scout partnership did not advance religion in violation of constitutional dictates.


Related news article: Supreme Court Refuses To Take Up Boy Scout Case

Poland Brings Strongly Christian Influence to European Politics

~Via Life Site. Hat tip to Le Salon Beige

WARSAW, Poland, May 30, 2006 ( -Poland is embracing its Christian identity with a new enthusiasm, the Seattle Times reported yesterday.

According to recent census data, 96% of the population say they are Roman Catholic, and 57% say they attend Mass every Sunday. The churches are filled to capacity and there is no shortage of priests.

During his pontificate, John Paul II expressed hope that Poland would be the source of a "new evangelization" of Western Europe. In recent years, a political movement in the country has begun efforts to influence the restoration of Christian values to the EU.

"What's new in Poland is that political parties want to express their Catholicism," Pawel Spiewak, a Polish sociologist, told the Times. "A few years ago, a typical Pole was Catholic in his private life. Now he's expressing it openly and wants to express it as public policy. It's atypical for Europe."

Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former communist, was president of Poland in 2003 when the country first began efforts to introduce some mention of Christianity into the EU's constitution. He told a British newspaper, "There is no excuse for making references to ancient Greece and Rome, and to the Enlightenment, without making reference to the Christian values which are so important to the development of Europe."

In 2005, the Polish delegation to the European Parliament set up a pro-life display in the parliamentary headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

"We follow the teachings of the church and the advice of the bishops," said Piotr Slusarczyk, a spokesman for the League of Polish Families, a Catholic party that brought in the display. The pro-family organization also opposes euthanasia and homosexual activity.

"Our goal is to defend Catholic values and to defend Poland against Western tendencies that are being promoted by a vocal EU lobby," Slusarczyk told the Times.

Polish president Lech Kaczynski is opposed to abortion and gay marriage, and has resisted pressure by the EU to change the country's anti-abortion laws and support homosexual activity.

Coordinator of U.S. seminary visitations expects report this fall

~Via Catholic News Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said May 26 that the Vatican's visitations to U.S. seminaries and houses of formation are nearly complete, and he hopes the resulting reports will be released this fall.

"Bottom line, I think this visitation was most successful," Archbishop O'Brien said in a talk to the 2006 Catholic Media Convocation in Nashville. A former head of two seminaries, he was coordinator of the visitations for the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees seminary formation.

The objectives of the visitations, which were sparked by the sexual abuse crisis that hit the U.S. church in 2002, were to examine the criteria for admission of candidates and various aspects of priestly formation, including the intellectual formation of seminarians in the field of moral theology and the programs of human and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring they can faithfully live chaste, celibate lives.

"The hype to begin with led some to believe this was going to be a crusade ... to weed out immorality," Archbishop O'Brien said. "That's not what it was about."

Instead, he said, the objective of the visitations was to determine if seminarians were being prepared properly to live a chaste and celibate life.

"I think the phobias that went around quickly dissipated" as the visits continued, he said.

He said one institution, which he did not name, had a negative reaction to its visitation, but "by and large there was great welcoming."

The congregation appointed 117 bishops and seminary personnel as visitors. They traveled in small teams to 156 diocesan and religious seminaries and houses of formation.

During the visits, the teams interviewed seminarians, faculty, staff and members of the board of directors, Archbishop O'Brien said. He said there were 10 areas of concentration, including the concept of the priesthood, governance of the seminary, admission policies, academic formation, human formation, pastoral formation and service of the seminary to the newly ordained.

More here

1,000th Post

Woooooooo! This is my 1,000th post! Here are some friends to celebrate:

Catholic Relief Services joins $1.2-million Catholic aid to Indonesia

Baltimore, May. 30, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has joined a $1.2-million emergency response plan that includes the Vatican’s Caritas Internationalis network and other Catholic agencies to provide assistance to the victims of Saturday's devastating earthquake in Indonesia.

The magnitude 6.3 quake struck in the early morning close to Yogyakarta. At last count, the quake had killed more than 5,400 people, wounded more than 6,500 and left 100,000 homeless. It is estimated that recovery and reconstruction may take up to two years.

CRS is working closely with all UN and international agencies on the ground and with three local partners. Its interventions are focused in three of the most-affected areas: Kretek and Pundong in the district of Bantul, and Prambanan in the district of Jogjakarta.

Currently, CRS is working to procure and distribute shelter materials, blankets, hygiene kits, clothes, kitchen sets and family kits to 5,000 victims. It has also provided funds for medical supplies to a local non-governmental organization that is providing shelter to 1,800 people and medical attention to 10,000 in Pundong.

Long-term reconstruction efforts are focused on establishing cash-for-work programs and setting up semi-permanent and permanent shelters.

Chocolate may boost brain power

~Reuters via Yahoo Health

Chocolate lovers rejoice. A new study hints that eating milk chocolate may boost brain function.

"Chocolate contains many substances that act as stimulants, such as theobromine, phenethylamine, and caffeine," Dr. Bryan Raudenbush from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia noted in comments to Reuters Health.

"These substances by themselves have previously been found to increase alertness and attention and what we have found is that by consuming chocolate you can get the stimulating effects, which then lead to increased mental performance."

To study the effects of various chocolate types on brain power, Raudenbush and colleagues had a group of volunteers consume, on four separate occasions, 85 grams of milk chocolate; 85 grams of dark chocolate; 85 grams of carob; and nothing (the control condition).

After a 15-minute digestive period, participants completed a variety of computer-based neuropsychological tests designed to assess cognitive performance including memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem solving.

"Composite scores for verbal and visual memory were significantly higher for milk chocolate than the other conditions," Raudenbush told Reuters Health. And consumption of milk and dark chocolate was associated with improved impulse control and reaction time.

Previous research has shown that some nutrients in food aid in glucose release and increased blood flow, which may augment cognitive performance. The current findings, said Raudenbush, "provide support for nutrient release via chocolate consumption to enhance cognitive performance."

There you go, eat chocolate and listen to Mozart for brain power. Not that I need an excuse to eat chocolate.

Sandro Magister: The Pope at Auschwitz

~Sandro Magister on The Pope's address at Auschwitz in Chiesa

ROMA, May 29, 2006 – The most extensively analyzed and criticized portion of Benedict XVI’s trip to the homeland of his predecessor, Poland, was when he visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, sites of the Holocaust.

It is criticized because of what pope Joseph Ratinger did not say there.

According to his critics’ expectations, Benedict XVI should have asked for forgiveness for the faults of the German nation – to which he belongs – and denounced the anti-Semitism of yesterday and today, especially that of many Christians.

But it didn’t happen. Benedict XVI didn’t talk speak of these two matters.

Nor did he repeat the usual interpretations of the Holocaust.

On the contrary, he made an interpretation of the slaughter of the Jewish people that no pope had ever made before him.

By annihilating that people – Benedict XVI asserted – the architects of the slaughter “wanted to kill God.” The God of Abraham, and of Jesus Christ. The God of the Jews and of the Christians, but also of all humanity, for whose sake “on Sinai he laid down principles to serve as a guide, principles that are eternally valid.” By destroying Israel, the authors of this extermination “ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.”

This is the key passage of the address given by Benedict XVI on Sunday, May 28, at Auschwitz and Birkenau.

It is to these words, and not his silences, that the most attention and reflection, including critical reflection, should be dedicated.


The Other da Vinci Cover-up

~Hat tip to Zadok, here's a story on the Other Leonardo da Vinci cover-up found at The Times Online.
SKETCHES hidden beneath one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works have been revealed to the public for the first time after scientists discovered the provocative images under a thick layer of paint.

A bloody skirmish between knights, a clutch of figures rebuilding a ruined temple and even an elephant were carefully laid out by Leonardo in the preparatory “under-drawing” for his Adoration of the Magi.

In the version of the painting known to the world, in which much of the underdrawing is reproduced, these elements have been hidden.

Parts of the original design were deliberately obscured — sometimes with swipes of charcoal — because in 15th century Florence they were deemed unsuitable for a picture of the infant Jesus and the wise men.

Maurizio Seracini, an engineer who makes scientific investigations of artworks, discovered the discrepancies in 2002 using multispectrum imaging. His work helped to establish that the Adoration was only partly the work of the Renaissance genius.

More here

Reform of the Reform Discussion

At The New Liturgical Movement, a discussion has been ongoing since Friday, May 26th on the Reform of the Reform.
If indeed the basic premise of the reform of the reform is true (and I daresay it is), and the liturgical reform as it happened went beyond the mandate of the Vatican Council, and if, indeed, the modern Roman liturgy has broken that organic tradition of development and become a fabricated product, then this is something that must be addressed. The substance of the missal itself must be reformed in addition to the accidents of typical liturgical celebration.

With that being said, I had proposed a project a few weeks ago to look at possible organic revisions (with the obvious question arising from that project as to what would constitute organic development) of either the classical Roman liturgy, or the reform of the reform liturgy. I believe this project can have bring about results in trying to take the discussion of the reform of a reform to a deeper level.

But for those who don't wish to pursue that project in that regard, I want to lay out a question to our readers for debate and discussion, and particularly to our priests. If there is to be a reform of the reform -- meaning, a revision of the Missal itself -- from whence do we begin? This fundamental question determines how a reform of the reform is ultimately and strategically approached.

Logic would seem to dictate that we begin at the point of departure and retrace our steps; namely, from the classical Roman Missal. Alternatively, from a pastoral angle, some would say this isn't realistic and we must work backwards starting from the 1970 Missal, aiming back toward either the 1965 Ordo Missae or to the 1962 Missale Romanum.

The question is then, where does the reform of the reform start with regards these more substantial revisions? What are your reasons why, and how do you envision this deeper reform occuring? i.e. If we start from the 1970 Missal, what would be the rubrical and textual changes, deletions, and additions you'd make, and again, how does (or would) organic development apply in the case of a missal which has already, arguably, broken from organic development? Need its revision in reverse be organic or not?
Please read more

German translation of Compendium online

The German translation of the Compendium of the Catechism is online at the Vatican website. Click here for Kompendium.

Vietnam’s Catholics join prayers for China

Hanoi (Asianews) – Vietnamese Catholics have also joined in prayers for the “sister” underground Church of China, that underground priests and bishops, submitted to pressure and threats to separate from the Pope, may be strong and courageous. This is taking place in the northern diocese of Vinh, where there are Catholic youth married to Chinese and in Saigon too, where small groups have come together to pray for churches living in Socialist countries, China and Vietnam.

A Vietnamese priest from the diocese of Thai Binh said: “We are praying with the pope for China’s underground Church and for the Church in Vietnam, we pray for religious freedom in both countries.” A lay person from Saigon said there was a prayer meeting in her parish every Saturday for “emigrant students”. Coming from different dioceses of Vietnam, they pray together and say the rosary for the Churches of Vietnam, China and “other countries where there are difficulties imposed by the government”.


Chinese bishop defies government threats

~Via Catholic World News

May. 29 ( - A Chinese Catholic bishop has been warned by the government that his ministry is "illegal," the South China Post reports.

Bishop Wu Qinjing, who was consecrated a bishop by the late Archbishop Li Duan, has never been recognized by the government. This week, as he prepared for ceremonies in Zhouzhi cathedral, he received warnings that his activities were illegal.

Washington ordains largest class since 1973

~Via Catholic News Agency

Washington DC, May. 29, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Theodore McCarrick ordained the Archdiocese of Washington's largest class of priests since 1973 and the second largest in the nation this year.

The cardinal ordained the 12 men Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The ordinations will also mark the cardinal’s last major act as the bishop of Washington as he heads to retirement, reported the Washington Times.

The new priests come from a variety of vocational backgrounds, including careers as physicist, computer engineer, stockbroker, sales manager, scuba diver and Air Force parachutist. The group includes natives of Spain, Cuba, Britain and Hungary.

The cardinal credited the diocese's location for attracting a large and diverse class of new priests.

"Because Washington is such a magnet, almost half of our seminarians come from other parts of the United States or even from abroad."

The backgrounds of the new priests will prove valuable in their work with 150 diverse parishes in the archdiocese.

Fr. David M. O'Connell, president of Catholic University, said the new priests are sensitive to the public skepticism facing priests given the recent sex-abuse scandal.

"If anything, the revelation of recent scandals has made seminarians firmer, more determined in their commitment and much more realistic about their lives as priests," he told the Times.

"Combined with a very strong emphasis on healthy celibate living, I believe our seminarians in the Archdiocese of Washington and elsewhere are better prepared to meet the challenges that are a part of every priest's life," he was quoted as saying.

The work of the Holy Spirit

~by St. Basil the Great

The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realise that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.
Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations – we become God.

Of Air and Sunshine

Dear Blog Friends,

There comes a time in every mad blogger's life that a necessary break must be taken in order to enjoy air and sky and cold mountain streams. When you read this, my family and I will be in the mountains of western North Carolina enjoying time away from bits and bytes.

I've posted meditations for each day that I'll be away. Have a safe Memorial Weekend as you remember loved ones who've gone on to their eternal rest. I shall return in full blog force on the Eve of the Feast of the Visitation.

God bless.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Our Lady of May

How like a timid virgin comes the May,
In verdure robed and crown'd with chaplets sweet
Rifling earth's choicest treasures, to lay
Rich spoils of beauty at Our Lady's feet!
And, her to honor, from her teeming stores
Of leaf and bud, in greening garths and bowers,
Nature her lavish offering outpours
Of delicate blossoms and of fragile flowers.

The south wind whispers and young grasses stir,
Renascent blooms from crypts of winter rise,
Lily and rose awake to worship her
Who is the peerless Rose of Paradise.

Spirits of Spring - crocus and daffodil
And violet and lilac fresh and frail -
At Mary's shrine their fragrance sweet distill
And in her praise their passionate souls exhale.

Madonna! Mother of our Christ and Lord!
Now in the opening year's auroral prime
Heaven and earth in rapturous accord
Hail thee and hymn with canticles sublime.
All innocent things, and all things pure and fair,
Hasten their homage at thy throne to pay;
And we, thy children, come with love and pray'r-
Oh, hear and help us, Lady of the May!

Touch us to harmony with the gracious hours,
And from our lives all discords harsh efface!
Help us to grow in beauty, like the flowers,
Responsive to the Godhead's quickening grace!
Oh, fill us with the season's peace and love,
And guide our feet in virtue's arduous way
That we may tread the paths that lead above
To thy dear Son, O Lady of the May!

~P.J. Coleman

The living water of the Holy Spirit

~by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, thing hitherto undreamed of.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The glory you gave to me, I have given to them

~by St. Gregory of Nyssa, bishop

When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought us by our saviour will be fully realised, for all men will be united with one another through their union with the one supreme Good. They will possess the perfection ascribed to the dove, according to our interpretation of the text: One alone is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only child of her mother, her chosen one.

Our Lord’s words in the gospel bring out the meaning of this text more clearly. After having conferred all power on his disciples by his blessing, he obtained many other gifts for them by his prayer to the Father. Among these was included the greatest gift of all, which was that they were no longer to be divided in their judgement of what was right and good, for they were all to be united to the one supreme Good. As the Apostle says, they were to be bound together with the bonds of peace in the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit. They were to be made one body and one spirit by the one hope to which they were all called. We shall do better, however, to quote the sacred words of the gospel itself. I pray, the Lord says, that they all may be one; that as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so they also may be one in us.

Now the bond that creates this unity is glory. That the Holy Spirit is called glory no one can deny if he thinks carefully about the Lord’s words: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them. In fact, he gave this glory to his disciples when he said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit. Although he had always possessed it, even before the world existed, he himself received this glory when he put on human nature. Then, when his human nature had been glorified by the Spirit, the glory of the Spirit was passed on to all his kin, beginning with his disciples. This is why he said: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them, so that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, I want them to be perfectly one.

Whoever has grown from infancy to manhood and attained to spiritual maturity possesses the mastery over his passions and the purity that makes it possible for him to receive the glory of the Spirit. He is that perfect dove upon whom the eyes of the bridegroom rest when he says: One alone is my dove, my perfect one.

Mary, Virgin Most Faithful

~by Fr. Michael F. Hull, New York

In her Litany, the Blessed Virgin Mary is invoked as "Virgin Most Faithful." Mary’s instantaneous and unmitigated response to the Archangel Gabriel grounds the appropriateness of this title. From the moment of the Annunciation by Gabriel, Mary’s reply has been the apex of the Christian assent of intellect and will in the obedience of faith: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). So important was Mary’s testament of faith that Saint Augustine of Hippo says, "Mary is more blessed for her perceiving the faith of Christ than for conceiving the flesh of Christ" (Sermo 72/A.7). As the new Eve, Mary upends the defiance and incredulity of Eve (and Adam). Saint Irenaeus of Lyons writes, "the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary has loosened by her faith" (Adversus haereses, 3.22.4; cf. Lumen gentium, n. 56). It is in Mary that we, "the poor banished children of Eve," find the exemplar of faith in Christ; it is from Mary that we beg intercession and protection from denial and doubt in faith, so that "we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ."

The Lord himself attests Mary’s faith-filled example. When from a crowd a woman cries out, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked," Jesus responds, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27–28; cf. Matt 12:46–50; Mark 3:32–35; Luke 8:21). In other words, the hallmark of discipleship—hearing the word of God and keeping it, the very thing that Mary did so perfectly at the Annunciation—is best illustrated not in Mary’s fecundity but in her Fiat. This exemplarism continues from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion, for Mary stands at the foot of Calvary. Immediately before surrendering his spirit, Jesus entrusts Saint John to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son," and commends Mary as the model extraordinaire to Saint John, "Behold, your mother" (John 19:26–27). "Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born to her" (LG, n. 58).

Likewise, Mary’s intercessory role is evidenced in the Lord’s earthly life. It is with the Wedding at Cana that Mary’s compassion is highlighted. When the wine runs short, she turns to intercede on behalf of her friends to her Son. So secure is her faith—"the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen" (Heb 11:1)—that she does not pause for a verification after having told Jesus of the problem. Instead, she turns straight away to the servants to say: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:1–11; cf. LG, n. 58). In other words, her absolute faith knows no hesitancy: once asked, her Son’s beneficence is assured for their hosts at Cana. And it is assured for us. "By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix" (LG, n. 62).

For two thousand years, the sterling instance of Mary’s faith has stood efficaciously before the sons and daughters of the Church for inspiration and imitation. For two thousand years, Mary has mediated our petitions to her Son. Therefore, it is right and just that we should cry out: " Mary, Virgin Most Faithful, pray for us!

Solemnity of the Ascension

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The May Magnificat

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season -

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honor?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring? -
Growth in every thing -

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all -

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

~by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Optional Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Augustine was the agent of a greater man than himself, Pope St Gregory the Great. In Gregory's time, except for the Irish monks, missionary activity was unknown in the western Church, and it is Gregory's glory to have revived it. He decided to begin with a mission to the pagan English, for they had cut off the Christian Celts from the rest of Christendom.

The time was favorable for a mission since the ruler of the whole of southern England, Ethelbert of Kent, had married a Christian wife and had received a Gaulish bishop at his court. Gregory himself wished to come to Britain, but his election as pope put an end to any such idea, and in 596 he decided to send an Italian monk following the comparatively new Rule of St Benedict. Augustine set out with some companions, but when they reached southern Gaul a crisis occurred and Augustine was sent back to the pope for help. In reply the pope made Augustine their abbot and subjected the rest of the party to him in all things, and with this authority Augustine successfully reached England in 597, landing in Kent on the Isle of Thanet.

Ethelbert and the men of Kent refused to accept Christianity at first, although an ancient British church dedicated to St Martin was restored for Augustine's use; but very shortly afterwards Ethelbert was baptized and, the pope having been consulted, a plan was prepared for the removal of the chief see from Canterbury to London and the establishment of another province at York. Events prevented either of these projects from being fulfilled, but the progress of the mission was continuous until Augustine's death, somewhere between 604 and 609.

The only defeat Augustine met with after he came to England was in his attempt to reconcile the Welsh Christians, to persuade them to adopt the Roman custom of reckoning the date of Easter, to correct certain minor irregularities of rite and to submit to his authority. Augustine met the leaders of the Welsh church in conference but he unfavorably impressed them by remaining seated when they came into his presence — it is likely that in this he unfavorably impressed St Bede too. Augustine was neither the most heroic of missionaries, nor the most tactful, but he did a great work, and he was one of the very few men in Gaul or Italy who, at that time, was prepared to give up everything to preach the gospel in a far country.

Excerpted from The Saints edited by John Coulson

The nation of angels was bathed with the light of holy faith

~Letter of Pope St. Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury

Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth, because the grain of wheat has fallen into the earth and has died. Christ has died in order to reign in heaven. Not only that: by his death we live; by his weakness we are strengthened; by his passion we are freed from suffering; impelled by his love, we are seeking in Britain brothers whom we do not know; through his help we have found those for whom we were searching, although we were not acquainted with them.

Who, dear brother, is capable of describing the great joy of believers when they have learned what the grace of Almighty God and your own cooperation achieved among the Angles? They abandoned the errors of darkness and were bathed with the light of holy faith. With full awareness they trampled on the idols which they had previously adored with savage fear. They are now committed to Almighty God. The guidelines given them for their preaching restrain them from falling into evil ways. In their minds they are submissive to the divine precepts and consequently feel uplifted. They bow down to the ground in prayer lest their minds cling too closely to earthly things. Whose achievement is this? It is the achievement of him who said: My Father is at work until now and I am at work as well.

God chose illiterate preachers and sent them into the world in order to show the world that conversion is brought about not by men’s wisdom but rather by his own power. So in like manner God worked through weak instruments and wrought great things among the Angles. Dear brother, in this heavenly gift there is something which should inspire us with great fear and great joy.

For I know through your love for that people, specially chosen for you, that Almighty God has performed great miracles. But it is necessary that the same heavenly gift should cause you to rejoice with fear and to fear with gladness. You should be glad because by means of external miracles the souls of the Angles have been led to interior grace. But you should tremble, lest on account of these signs, the preacher’s own weak soul be puffed up with presumption; lest, while seeming externally raised aloft in honour, it fall internally as a result of vainglory.

We should remember that when the disciples on their joyous return from their preaching mission said to their heavenly master: Lord, in your name even devils were subjected to us, he immediately retorted: Do not rejoice about this but rather that your names are inscribed in heaven.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Herself a Rose

Herself a rose, who bore the Rose,
She bore the Rose and felt its thorn,
All Loveliness new-born
Took on her bosom its repose,
And slept and woke there night and morn.

Lily herself, she bore the one
Fair Lily; sweeter, whiter, far
Than she or others are:
The Sun of Righteousness her Son,
She was His morning star.

She gracious, He essential Grace,
He was the Fountain, she the rill:
Her goodness to fulfill
And gladness, with proportioned pace
He led her steps thro' good and ill.

Christ's mirror she of grace and love,
Of beauty and of life and death:
By hope and love and faith
Transfigured to His Likeness "Dove
Spouse, Sister, Mother," Jesus saith.

~Christina Rossetti

Always rejoice in the Lord

~by St. Augustine

The Apostle commands us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. For, you see, as Scripture says, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world will be counted as God’s enemy. Just as a man cannot serve two masters, so too no-one can rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.

Let joy in the Lord win and go on winning, until people take no more joy in the world. Let joy in the Lord always go on growing, and joy in the world always go on shrinking until it is reduced to nothing. I do not mean that we should not rejoice as long as we are in this world, but that even while we do find ourselves in this world, we should already be rejoicing in the Lord.

Someone may argue, “I am in the world; so obviously, if I rejoice, I rejoice where I am”. What of it? Because you are in the world, does it mean that you are not in the Lord? Listen to the same Apostle in the Acts of the Apostles, speaking to the Athenians, and saying about God and about the Lord, our Creator, In him we live, and move, and are. Since he is everywhere, there is nowhere that he is not. Is it not precisely this that he is emphasising to encourage us? The Lord is very near; do not be anxious about anything.

This is something tremendous, that he ascended above all the heavens but is still very near to those who dwell on earth, wherever they may be. Who can this be that is both far away and close at hand, except the one who became our near neighbour out of mercy?

The whole of the human race, you see, is that man who was lying in the road, left there by robbers, half dead, who was ignored by the passing priest and Levite, while the passing Samaritan stopped by him to take care of him and help him; and when the Immortal, the Just, was far away from us mortals and sinners, he came down to us to become – that far distant being – our near neighbour.

He has not treated us according to our sins. For we are his children. How do we prove this? The only Son died for us so that he would not remain the only child. He did not want to be alone, who died alone. The only Son of God made many children for God. He bought himself brothers and sisters with his blood; rejected, he accepted us; sold, he bought us back; dishonoured, he honoured us; killed, he brought us life.

So then, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity. Rejoice thus, and wherever you are here, as long as you are here, the Lord is very near: do not be anxious about anything.

Memorial of St. Philip Neri, priest

This gracious, cheerful saint was Rome's apostle of the sixteenth century (1515-1595). A peculiar charism was his burning love of God, a love that imperceptibly communicated itself to all about him. So ardently did this fire of divine love affect him during the octave of Pentecost in his twenty-ninth year that the beating of his heart broke two ribs. It was a wound that never healed.

For fifty years the saint lived on in the intensity of that love which was more at home in heaven than on earth. Through those fifty years his was an apostolate to renew the religious and ecclesiastical spirit of the Eternal City, a task he brought to a happy conclusion. It is to his credit that the practice of frequent holy Communion, long neglected in Rome and throughout the Catholic world, was again revived. He became one of Rome's patron saints, even one of the most popular.

Philip Neri loved the young, and they responded by crowding about him. As a confessor he was in great demand; among his penitents was St. Ignatius. To perpetuate his life's work, St. Philip founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a society of secular clergy without religious vows. The purpose of his foundation was to enkindle piety among the faithful by means of social gatherings which afforded not only entertainment but religious instruction as well. Joy and gaiety were so much a part of his normal disposition that Goethe, who esteemed him highly, called him the "humorous saint." It was his gay, blithe spirit that opened for him the hearts of children. "Philip Neri, learned and wise, by sharing the pranks of children himself became a child again" (epitaph).

As a youth Philip Neri often visited the seven principal churches of Rome. He spent entire nights at the catacombs, near the tombs of the martyrs, meditating on heavenly things. The liturgy was the wellspring of his apostolic spirit; it should likewise motivate us to Catholic Action.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Thursday, May 25, 2006

St. Bede the Venerable

Bede occupies an important niche in Church history by bridging the gap between patristic and early medieval times, the era when the Germanic nations had just been Christianized. Through him Christian tradition and Roman culture came to the Middle Ages. He is also honored as the "father of English history." His writings were read publicly in churches while he was still alive; but since he could not be called "Saint," the title of Venerable was attached to his name, a usage which continued down through the centuries.

True Benedictine that he was, his life revolved around prayer and work. On the vigil of the Ascension he felt death approaching and asked to be fortified with the last sacraments. After reciting the Magnificat antiphon of the feast's second Vespers, he embraced his brethren, had himself placed upon a coarse penitential garment on the earth, and breathed forth his soul while saying softly: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost."

How St. Bede loved the Bible! Anyone who intends to live with the Church must keep the Scriptures near — day in, day out. St. Bede explained the Bible to others. At times you too will have this privilege. Use it.

~Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Our Lord's Ascension

~by St. Augustine

Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.

Mary and the Church

~by Msgr. Sabino Vengco, Loyola School of Theology, Manila

The Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (1964) assigned its last and longest chapter like a crown to a treatment of Mary's role in the plan of salvation and in the mystery of the Church, as the mother of the Incarnate Word and equivalently of the Mystical Body. Rather than considering her in herself the Council Fathers gave us the authentic teachings of the Church regarding Mary by presenting her in relation to Christ and the Church, in an integration of mariology with ecclesiology in the light of Christology. This reorientation of the way we perceive Mary, after the initial hiatus, has brought a more real mariology into currency and with it a more real and abiding devotion to her, splendidly assisted by Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (1974) and John Paul II's Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater (1987) and other statements.

As the Mother of the Son of God, the beloved daughter of the Father, and the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as the immaculate one assumed into heaven, Mary typifies the communion with God to which humankind is called. As a creature of God's special grace, Mary images the Church as the sacrament of union with God. In her the Church as the icon of intimacy with the Triune God has already achieved the perfection toward which the People of God is on pilgrimage. Mary is truly the model of the Church in her faith and obedience, in her total attentiveness and submission to the Word of God, in her Spirit-filled charity and joy in proclaiming God's wonderful deeds, and in her prayerfulness and unswerving fidelity all the way to the cross. She is the beacon of hope illuminating the way the community of the faithful must tread. Like a mother, Mary is the teacher of Christian life, the one who points the way, the loving one who is already there and who assures us who are still struggling along.

But Mary is not only for the Church the model of virtues, she is also the Church's archetype in the mission of mediating to the world the salvation in Christ. If the Church is the sacrament of salvation in Christ, Mary in her divine maternity is indeed a unique partner and instrument of God's saving design. Without taking away anything from nor adding anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ our one Mediator, Mary in the order of grace continues to care and intercede for the salvation of us all. In her subordinate role in the plan of salvation, Mary inspires the Church to the same faithfulness and self-realization in grace.

That is why the Church in contemplating Mary in connection with Christ Jesus and with God's People cannot but burst out in praises to God for her and in a rich variety of loving devotions to her. Perfected in the love of God, Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ and our mother too. The Church proceeding from true faith discovers in Mary her own original image in accordance to God's will.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Da Vinci Code Diary

Aren't we over-saturated with DVC coverage by now? Don't get too comfortable. Sony is considering making Angels and Demons, DVC's prequel. This time you have an evil Camerlengo, the Illuminati, and anti-matter! Anyway, here's Austen Ivereigh at GodSpy:
How dull the con of Dan—at least the film version is. But for the members of the London-based Da Vinci Code Response Group it has been anything but. We’ve been having a ball: rushing from studio to studio, putting out statements and surveys, asking how Sony Corp. would feel being named in a film “based on fact” as the perpetrator of 9/11, and yes, talking about the real Holy Grail: how God became Man and died and rose for us, so we can be filled with His life and love through the daily miracle of the Eucharist.

Isn’t that just a tad more exciting, we’ve been saying, than discovering you’re a Merovingian king descended from, er, “just a man”?

Now that media interest is dying away, we’re wondering how to keep up the excitement until the film of Angels and Demons, Brown’s Vatican conspiracy, which Sony said recently they were ready to work on. Keep ‘em comin’, Dan.

A month ago we came together, our little secret society—a huddle of conspirators in a tome-lined, oak-panelled library deep in the heart of Archbishop’s House, Westminster—to hatch our strategy. Who were we? A ad hoc group: not an official body (bishops should have the right to stay silent when it comes to films) but a gang of the good: A Benedictine, known to millions as the silver-tongued abbot in the BBC2 three-parter The Monastery; a young Jesuit priest, creator of the popular Pray As You Go podcast; two women theologians—one in vows to an order, the other to her husband; a priest scripture-scholar (no beard); the secretary-general of the Catholic Truth Society (gives the game away, doesn’t it?); and a number of suspiciously telegenic members of Opus Dei, including the ubiquitous Jack Valero—these were just some of the members of our crack media unit: the Da Vinci Code Response Group.

This is our story.
Diary entries here

Bishop Skylstad's fax in response to Cardinal Arinze's letter

Bishop Trautman's response to Cardinal Arinze's letter

~Via Rocco by way of Cafeteria is Closed

In light of the recent leaking of Cardinal Francis Arinze's 2 May letter to USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad on the issue of liturgical translations, the chair of the US Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, has issued a response.

Trautman's complete statement reads as follows:
Bishop Skylstad has forwarded to all Latin Rite Bishops a copy of Cardinal Arinze's letter concerning translation of the Order of Mass, which is presently under consideration by the members of the USCCB and scheduled for vote by the U.S. Bishops at their June meeting. I see this letter as a clarification and further restatement of criteria for translation previously authored by the Congregation in its document Liturgiam authenticam. This recent correspondence offers additional input for the deliberation of the Bishops.

That's all, folks.

Australia: Solemnity of Mary Help of Christians

Today the Church in Australia celebrates the Solemnity of Mary Help of Christians. Mary Help of Christians was adopted as patron of the new Church of Australia in 1844, at a significant time in their history. British settlement was just over fifty years old, the transportation of convicts was coming to an end, and the first elections in Australian history had been held in 1843. Issues of land, immigration and education had begun to surface and the Church was involved in these social problems. The Holy See confirmed the patronage in 1852.

Poland prepares for Pope

Polish boys dressed in religious clothes walk past a stage with a big picture of the late Pope John Paul II on the main square of Wadowice near Krakow May 23, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI will visit the hometown of his predecessor this week. This sleepy provincial town is slowly becoming a pilgrimage destination for Roman Catholics devoted to its most famous son, the late Pope John Paul. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Polish girls attend a procession on the main square of Wadowice, near Krakow May 23, 2006. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

A nun fixes a poster of pope Benedict XVI to the entrance of the St. John's cathedral in the old town of Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, May 24, 2006. The pontiff will meet with the clergy in the cathedral on Thursday, May 25, 2006 during his four day visit to Poland. Slogan on poster reads: Welcome to Warsaw. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)

General Audience: As for Peter, faith is a “journey of trials and faithfulness renewed daily”

~Via Asia News

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Peter’s faith, initially marked by impetuosity and abandon, would know betrayal and repentance before finally reaching total trust. This shows that “the school of faith is not a triumphal march, but a journey strewn with suffering and love, with trials and loyalty to be renewed every day”. Once again, it was Peter who featured in the reflection shared by the Pope with more than 40,000 people gathered for today’s general audience, on the eve of Benedict XVI’s departure for Poland. His visit, as he himself said, is aimed at “retracing the places linked to the life and priestly and episcopal ministry” of John Paul II.

To talk about the faith and mission of Peter, Benedict XVI focused on two moments in his life: the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and the talk by the Sea of Tiberias.

The day after the miracle, in the synagogue of Caphernaum, “Jesus interpreted the miracle, not in the sense of reigning over Israel as the crowd had hoped, but in the sense of the gift of self: ‘The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’ (Jn 6:51). Jesus announced the cross, with the cross the Eucharistic bread, his absolutely new way of being king. We can understand that these words of the Teacher, as was his behaviour, were very difficult for people to take, including his disciples. It was a ‘tough’ talk that put their faith to the test (Jn 6:60). Many disciples withdrew”. One can imagine, continued the Pope, that the words of Jesus were difficult also for Peter however, “when Jesus asked the Twelve, ‘Do you want to leave too?’ Peter reacted with the impulse of his generous heart, led by the Holy Spirit. In the name of all, he replied: ‘‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ (cfr Jn 6:66-69)”.

“The impetuous generosity of Peter does not shield him, however, from risks coming from human weakness. He followed Jesus on impulse; he overcame the test of faith, abandoning himself to Him. But the moment came when he too gave in to fear and fell: he betrayed the Teacher (cfr Mk 14:66-72). The school of faith is not a triumphal march, but a journey strewn with suffering and love, with trials and loyalty to be renewed every day. Peter had promised absolute loyalty, he knew the bitterness and humiliation of repudiation: the daredevil learned humility at a cost. Even Peter had to learn to be nothing! When finally, his mask fell and he understood the truth in his weak heart of a believing sinner, he burst into a liberating flood of tears. After this outburst, he was ready for his mission. This mission would be entrusted to him on a spring morning by the Risen Jesus. The meeting happened on the banks of the Sea of Tiberias”.

This was the dialogue when Jesus asked Peter for three times “Simon… do you love me? And the third time: “Simon understood that for Jesus his poor love, the only one of which he was capable, was enough”.

“From that day onwards, Peter ‘followed’ the Teacher with the precise knowledge of his own fragility; but this awareness did not discourage him. In fact, he knew he could count on the presence at his side of the Risen Lord. From the ingenuous enthusiasm of initial attachment, passing through the painful experience of repudiation and tears of conversion, Peter reached a point he could entrust himself to Jesus, who in turn adapted to his poor ability to love. It was a long journey that made him a credible witness, because he was constantly open to the movement of the Spirit of Jesus.”

Card. Dias tells fundamentalists: “Conversion is between man and God”

~Via Asia News
In an official document, the cardinal took advantage of a controversy sparked by the BJP – when it criticized the pope – to counter, in four points, the accusations that for years have been leveled against the Catholic Church, a “small minority that works for the good of India, which it is proud to be a part of”. A state dominated by the BJP, Hindu fundamentalist groups burned photos of Benedict XVI on Saturday 20 May, to protest his “interference in India’s internal affairs”. Here are Cardinal Dias' four points:

During the audience which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI recently granted to India's new Ambassador to the Holy See, he made the following observation on religious freedom in India: “The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected as not only unconstitutional, but also as contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers, who believed in a nation of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance between different religions and ethnic groups”.

In the wake of some criticism to this statement by a tiny politico-religious fraction (unrepresentative) of the religious majority in India, the following points are worth noting:

1) Conversion from one religious belief to another is a strictly personal matter between God and the individual concerned. The freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate one's religion have been enshrined in the Constitution of India. This is but an affirmation of the human rights to which every man, woman and child is entitled. Conversions, however, should never be induced by force, fraud or allurement: the Catholic Church considers all such conversions as invalid. But, any opposition by law or de facto to a genuine conversion, besides being a grave violation of the code of human rights and of the spirit of the Indian Constitution, is, above all, an unwarranted interference in God's unique competence in the matter. It is, therefore, imperative that the said group be asked to produce factual evidence proving a single forced conversion to the Catholic Church in India as a sign of its bonafide intentions. All allegations made in this regard in the past have proved to be utterly false, like the one made last year by a Government education officer against a Catholic school in Nashik, when he was refused a favour he was demanding very arrogantly. When questioned by his superiors at Mantralaya and asked to produce proof of his complaint, he was quick to retract his accusation and he publicly apologised for his haughty behaviour.

2) Christians in India number only 2.3% of the total population: of these 1.8% belong to the Catholic Church. Despite being such a tiny minority, the Christians cater to 20% of all the primary education in the country, 10% of the literacy and community health care programmes, 25% of the care of the orphans and widows, and 30% of the care of the handicapped, lepers and AIDS patients. The vast majority of those who avail themselves of these institutions belong to faiths other than Christian. These institutions are much appreciated by Hindus, Muslims and persons of other faiths or of no faith at all, who admire the Christians for their selfless service of the suffering, the marginalised, the illiterate and the downtrodden. The aforementioned group would do well to examine how much it is doing in favour of the educational, health and social uplift of the Indian people, and should not take it amiss that some members of the religious majority in India (and of other communities as well) feel attracted to follow a religion whose founder, Our Lord Jesus Christ, told His followers that He had come, not to be served, but to serve and who commanded them to love one another as He had loved them. The group can also ask itself why so many persons of other faiths, including even government officials, insist on their children being educated in so-called “convent schools” or on admitting their sick and aged relatives in Catholic hospitals or homes.

3) The same group could also make a survey as to how many of the millions of persons who have passed through the Catholic educational, health or social institutions in India from time immemorial - and these include, interalia, renowned judges and advocates, medical practitioners and nurses, political and religious leaders, and even some prominent members of the group itself! - have been converted or were asked to convert to Christianity. They would thus find the reason why, after two thousand years of Christian presence in India and the zealous activity of its members in favour of the local population, the number of Christians remains exceedingly small in the country.

4) If the said group is unable to answer these points satisfactorily, it would do well to re-consider its profoundly biased attitude towards the Christian community, and be ashamed of the attacks, both verbal and physical, which some of its members make on Christian personalities and institutions in several States in the country. Such a behaviour is indeed unbecoming of civilised persons and seriously endangers the secular and democratic fabric of our beloved Motherland, to which Catholics in India are proud to belong as law-abiding citizens

To the Virgin Mary

Unequalled Virgin, the second ornament
Of the human race, whose dignity has not diminished
Her humility, nor has humility lessened her generosity of heart,
O rare Mother of her own Creator!

You have crushed the head of the serpent whose venom
Has poisoned the entire world.
You assumed your place in Heaven above the angels' choir
And there, glorified, you partake of eternal joy.

For our souls you are like a moon
Which reflects the rays of eternal
Charity, as our grievous sinfulness

Descends on us like a night's dark shadow.
Lead us to the morning dawn
And show us the light of your Sun which we all desire.

~Mikolaj Sep Szarzynski (1550 - 1581)

The days between the resurrection and the ascension of the Lord

~by Pope St. Leo the Great

Dearly beloved, those days which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were ratified in them and deep truths were revealed.

In those days the fear of death was removed with all its terrors, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh was established. In those days the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles through the Lord’s breathing upon them, and to the blessed Apostle Peter, set above the rest, the keys of the kingdom are entrusted and the care care of the Lord’s flock.

It was during that time that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to sweep away all the clouds of our uncertainty, reproached them for the slowness of their timid and trembling hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, they are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How much more blessed is that opening of their eyes, to the glorification of their nature, than the time when our first parents’ eyes were opened to the disastrous consequences of their transgression.

Dearly beloved, through all this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in view, to teach his own people and impress upon their eyes and their hearts that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen, risen as truly as he had been born and had suffered and died.

Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at his death on the cross and backward in believing his Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.

Truly it was great and unspeakable, that cause of their joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude the Nature of mankind went up: up above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, to pass above the angels’ ranks and to rise beyond the archangels’ heights, and to have its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, it should be associated on the throne with his glory, to whose Nature it was united in the Son.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

California Monastery: Wine and Retreats

Monks of the Abby of New Clairvaux sit in prayer at the abbey's chapel in Vina, Calif., April 26, 2006. On land once owned by Leland Stanford, California's eighth governor and university founder, the monks of New Clairvaux, have opened the first Roman Catholic Cistercian winery in North America. The monks who had their first grape harvest in 2002, hope the sales of their wine will help keep up the monastery. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

~by AP via Yahoo

In a Northern California monastery, 25 monks following the teachings of St. Benedict rise hours before dawn to pray, work the land and make a serious syrah — a full-bodied red wine.

The men at the Abbey of New Clairvaux have opened the first Roman Catholic Cistercian winery in North America, though their vineyard has a storied place in California's wine history.

The 580-acre spread in this tiny town north of Chico was once owned by Leland Stanford — the railroad magnate, California governor and university founder — who ran what was considered the world's largest winery in the late 1800s, said Aimee Sunseri, a fifth-generation winemaker hired to help the monks start the winery.

The brothers' vineyards are more modest, but they hope wine sales will boost the monastery, where recruitment to the order has been hard and the monks must dig up ways to make cash.

"We need to work to keep going, but we don't want or expect to get rich. But the wine has done well — better than expected," said Father Harold Meyer, who has been at the abbey for 33 years.

While their quarters are kept private, they've opened the monastery to the public for three- and four-day retreats, tours and weekend wine-tasting.

The grounds are quiet most of the day except for the splashing of koi fish in a small fountain and the abbot speeding by in a golf cart. At 7:35 p.m., the monks say their last prayer before the "grand silence," which lasts until morning prayers at 3:30 a.m. the next day.

Then, it's time for work.

"There's a sacredness about working with grapes," Meyer said. "Wine is very special."