Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vatican drops annual Christmas concert

Vatican, Aug. 31 ( - The Vatican's annual Christmas concert has been cancelled, apparently at the wish of Pope Benedict XVI.

The simple Vatican announcement on August 31, indicating that the concert would not take place this year, prompted Italian reporters to conclude that the decision came from the Holy Father. The daily Il Stampa announced: "Pope Ratzinger prefers Mozart and Bach to pop music and thus after 12 years the traditional Vatican Christmas concert comes to an end."

Previously Unknown Bach Work Discovered

BERLIN — A previously unknown work by Johann Sebastian Bach has turned up in a crate of 18th-century birthday cards removed from a German library shortly before it was devastated by fire last year, researchers said Wednesday.

Experts say the work for soprano and string or keyboard accompaniment, composed for a German duke's birthday, is the first new music from the renowned composer to surface in 30 years.

Researcher Michael Maul from the Bach Archiv foundation found the composition, dated October 1713, in May in the eastern city of Weimar. The Leipzig-based foundation said there was no doubt about the authenticity of the handwritten, two-page score.

"It is no major composition but an occasional work in the form of an exquisite and highly refined strophic aria, Bach's only contribution to a musical genre popular in late 17th-century Germany,"said Christoph Wolff, the foundation's director and a professor at Harvard University.


Okay, do you feel the urge to clean out your attic and maybe discover that long-lost Strad or Bach motet? You never know what you might find.

NY Archdiocese tells suspect priests: leave or enter program

~Via NY Daily News

New York priests suspected of sexually abusing children but protected from expulsion by Catholic law are being required to enter a lifelong supervision program or leave the church, according to the New York Archdiocese.

Since June, seven priests have been presented with the choice, and five of the men have chosen to leave the priesthood, said archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

The other two are expected to spend their lives in closely supervised housing, where they will undergo therapy and maintain a daily log of their movements. Men in this Shepherd Program will not be permitted to celebrate Mass in public, dress as priests, be alone with children or "inappropriately use computers," according to a letter sent to the priests by Cardinal Edward Egan.

Before the new program, Zwilling said, suspected abusers had been barred from functioning as priests but had been allowed great freedom, required only to notify the archdiocese where they were living.

"We, through our own process, have come to the conclusion that we believe that these men cannot be returned to ministry, and therefore we have to find something to do with them," Zwilling said.

Victims advocates said the new policy could help protect the church from liability, but worried that the priests who decide to leave could again become abusers.

"Unleashing them on society is not the responsible thing to do," said the Rev. John P. Bambrick, a priest in the Trenton Diocese who says he was abused as a youth by a priest and who is now an advocate for victims.

The church says it refers any allegations that could result in a prosecution to law enforcement officials, but in many old cases, the statute of limitations has run out.

The tight supervision, called the Shepherd Program, targets priests who have been referred by an archdiocesan advisory board, as well as those who have been convicted in a canonical trial but determined to be too old or sick to endure being defrocked.


New Bishop for Sioux Falls

~Via the Vatican News Service

The Holy Father has named the Rev. Mons. Paul Joseph Swain as the new Bishop for Sioux Falls. Mons. Swain has been the vicar general of the Diocese of Madison.

Via Whispers in the Loggia, here is Mons. Swain's biography:
A convert from Methodism, the bishop-elect marks his 63rd birthday in two weeks. Having attended law school at the University of Wisconsin, he served in Vietnam in air intelligence and, after his return home, was legal counsel to then-Wisconsin Gov. Sherman Dryfus. Received into the church in 1982, he attended Pope John XXIII National Seminary at Weston and was ordained in 1988. Following Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg, Bishop-elect Swain is the second alumnus of the seminary founded specifically for older vocations to be raised to the episcopacy.

In 2002, he was named Madison's vicar-general and rector of its Cathedral of St Raphael, which was heavily damaged by a March 2005 fire.

Swain is shown above in a photo taken on the morning of the cathedral fire. The future of St Raphael's remains a topic of discussion in the Madison diocese, with Bishop Robert Morlino beginning a series of six "townhall" meetings next week to solicit opinions on the rebuilding project.

Notably, last month the bishop and rector made a jailhouse visit to William Connell, who pled no contest to the arson charge in early July. The stated purpose of the visit was to forgive Connell, who apologized and offered his wish that the cathedral be rebuilt.

In accord with the norms of law, Bishop-elect Swain must be ordained and take possession of the diocese of Sioux Falls (comprised of "East River," South Dakota) within four months of this morning's appointment.

Survey of Parish Hymnals

~Dan at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping has posted a list of hymnals available for parish use and gives a brief description of each of the hymnals. This is the second part of a series.
To begin the second part of our exploration of purchasing a hymnal, let's look at what an ideal hymnal might contain, and then the real books that are out there on the market.

The ideal hymnal, based on my previous criteria and the comments, would have:
1) Settings of the Ordinary of the Mass
2) Psalmody for the Church Year
3) Hymns and/or settings of the Propers of the Mass, the selection of such varying based upon the parish's needs

The major real hymnals out there on the market:

We'll start with the offerings of the "Big Three" : GIA Publications, Oregon Catholic Press, and World Library Publications.
Visit the Shrine. What's your parish using?

Matt Alderman's Design Projects

Matt Alderman of the Shrine of Holy Whapping has provided a link to view his various projects as an architecture student at the University of Notre Dame. Click here for a Tridentine seminary in Wisconsin. Here's the design for Episcopal converts to the Catholic Church. Dear Lord, please slay the Bauhaus dragon with more gifted people like Matt.

St. Fulton?

~From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If the late Catholic televangelist Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is eventually beatified, it will be due, in part, to testimony concerning a miracle that is said to have occurred in the Pittsburgh region.

A tribunal for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh spent six months gathering evidence from family members and medical personnel concerning a critically ill baby who recovered after relatives prayed to Archbishop Sheen for intervention. The documents were sent to Rome last month, where Archbishop Sheen is a candidate for beatification, the second step toward canonization or sainthood.

Archbishop Sheen died in 1979 at the age of 84. If he is declared a saint, he would be the first American-born man to be canonized, and the first saint to have won an Emmy.

Details of the alleged miracle remain secret, as does the family's identity.

"A series of complications occurred at the time of birth, and the manner in which the complications and problems converged at one time, and the way they were relieved, were considered by many people to be extraordinary," said the Rev. Brian Welding, judicial vicar of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who was in charge of the investigation.

Andrea Ambrosi, a canon lawyer from Rome who is the official advocate for the beatification, said at the conclusion of the hearing that all of the medical witnesses "recognized that a force superior to their medical science intervened for his recovery."


Vatican Astronomer Says ET Could Phone Home

~From Total Catholic

Pope Benedict’s new chief-astronomer does not exclude the possibility that there could be intelligent-life on some other planet in the universe.

"I believe it would not be a problem for theology, for Christianity, because just as we have different creatures in creation, there could be intelligent extra-terrestrials too, and they would also be creatures of God," said Fr Jose Gabriel Funes, the 43-year-old Argentine Jesuit who has been appointed as the new director of the Vatican’s Astronomical Observatory.

"If St Francis of Assisi could say brother-wolf, why could we not say brother-ET?" Fr Jose asked in an interview with The Universe.

An expert in galaxies, Fr Funes said the universe had 100 billion galaxies and each galaxy had 100 billion stars.

"To give you some idea, the stars of the universe are as numerous as the grains of sand on the beaches of the earth," he said.

"The galaxies were formed thousands of millions of years ago, and sometimes times fused and formed much bigger galaxies. Supposing there are some stars like the sun, and some planets like the earth, it is possible that life exists."

Fr Funes added that he was astounded at the story in a British daily newspaper alleging the Pope had sacked Fr Coyne because of his support for the Darwinian theory of evolution. Fr Funes rubbished the idea and explained that the post of director was "not for life" and that Fr Coyne expressed a desire to hand over to "a younger man" after spending 28 years at the helm.

Old Calendar: St. Raymond Nonnatus

Peter Nolasco, a native of Languedoc, founded in the early thirteenth century a society known as the Mercedarians, devoted to ransoming Christians captured by the Moors.

Amongst those he received into the society was a Catalonian named Raymond. This Raymond's mother had died giving birth to her son, and he was delivered by a caesarian section — hence his nickname Nonnatus, which is Latin for 'not born'. So determined was Saint Raymond Nonnatus that when Peter Nolasco retired as chief ransomer, the saint succeeded him in this office. He set off for Algiers with a great sum of money, and there ransomed many.

When his money ran out, Saint Raymond Nonnatus could have made his own escape. But this would have involved leaving several slaves behind. He gave himself up in exchange for their liberty.

His own life was now in great danger. The Moors of Algiers were enraged that he had managed to convert some of their number. The governor would have put him to death by impaling the saint on a stake. What saved him were others who realized that a rich ransom would be paid for this particular Christian. Even so, he was still whipped publicly in the streets — partly to discourage those who might be tempted to learn from him the Christian faith. Reports of his tortures probably exaggerated the cruelty of his Moorish captors but after eight months of torture, Peter Nolasco arrived with Raymond Nonnatus's ransom. Even then he wanted to stay behind, hoping to convert still more men and women to Christianity; but Peter Nolasco forbade it.

On his return, Pope Gregory IX made him a cardinal. The pope wished to see Raymond Nonnatus in Rome, but on his way there in the year 1240 he reached only Cardona near Barcelona, where he died at the age of thirty-six.

~Excerpted from A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley

You, O God, are everything to us

~by St. Columban

Brethren, let us follow that vocation by which we are called from life to the fountain of life. He is the fountain, not only of living water, but of eternal life. He is the fountain of light and spiritual illumination; for from him come all these things: wisdom, life and eternal light. The author of life is the fountain of life; the creator of light is the fountain of spiritual illumination. Therefore, let us seek the fountain of light and life and the living water by despising what we see, by leaving the world and by dwelling in the highest heavens. Let us seek these things, and like rational and shrewd fish may we drink the living water which wells up to eternal life.

Merciful God, good Lord, I wish that you would unite me to that fountain, that there I may drink of the living spring of the water of life with those others who thirst after you. There in that heavenly region may I ever dwell, delighted with abundant sweetness, and say: "How sweet is the fountain of living water which never fails, the water welling up to eternal life."

O God, you are yourself that fountain ever and again to be desired, ever and again to be consumed. Lord Christ, always give us this water to be for us the source of the living water which wells up to eternal life. I ask you for your great benefits. Who does not know it? You, King of glory, know how to give great gifts, and you have promised them; there is nothing greater than you, and you bestowed yourself upon us, you gave yourself for us.

Therefore, we ask that we may know what we love, since we ask nothing other than that you give us yourself. For you are our all: our life, our light, our salvation, our food and our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your Spirit; wound our souls with your love, so that the soul of each and every one of us may say in truth: Show me my soul's desire, for I am wounded by your love.

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord. Blessed is the soul so wounded by love. Such a soul seeks the fountain of eternal life and drinks from it, although it continues to thirst and its thirst grows ever greater even as it drinks. Therefore, the more the soul loves, the more it desires to love, and the greater its suffering, the greater its healing. In this same way may our God and Lord Jesus Christ, the good and saving physician, wound the depths of our souls with a healing wound--the same Jesus Christ who reigns in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nuns prove God is not figment of the mind

~Excerpted from The Telegraph

Carmelite nuns assisted scientists in their quest to discover a circuit of nerves in the brain to explain man’s almost universal belief in a deity

The idea that there a "God spot" in the brain, a circuit of nerves which could explain mankind's almost universal belief in a deity, is questioned today by a study of Carmelite nuns.

Scientists have been in the pursuit of the brain processes underlying the Unio Mystica - the Christian notion of mystical union with God - and this endeavour is now part of a newly-emerging field called "neurotheology".

But the God module, as some scientists call it, is a mirage, according to the study by Dr Mario Beauregard, of the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal and his student Vincent Paquette, published in the journal Neuroscience Letters. "The main goal of the study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience," said Dr Beauregard. "This does not diminish the meaning and value of such an experience, and neither does it confirm or disconfirm the existence of God."

Fifteen cloistered Carmelite nuns ranging from 23 to 64 years old were subjected to brain scan using a method called functional magnetic resonance imaging while being asked to relive a mystical experience, rather than actually try to achieve one. "I was obliged to do it this way seeing as the nuns are unable to call upon God at will," said Dr Beauregard.

This method was justified because previous studies with actors asked to enter a particular emotional state activated the same brain regions as people actually living those emotions.

Rather than reveal a spiritual centre in the brain, a module of neural circuits specifically designed for religious experience, the study demonstrated that a dozen different regions of the brain are activated during a mystical experience.


No more solitary confinement for three Catholics on death row

~Via Asia News

The Indonesian prison authorities have alleviated the prison conditions of Fabianus Tibo, a Christian on death row. Tibo, Domingus da Silva and Marinus Riwu have been awaiting execution of their sentence by firing squad since mid-August. The decision rekindled hopes that the death penalty handed down to the three men – convicted of masterminding a massacre of Muslims in Poso in 2000 – may be revoked.

However, the Attorney General of Jakarta was quick to throw water on the flames of hope, saying a meeting between the competent authorities would soon be held to decide the execution date.

Fr Jimmy Tumbelaka, a priest from Manado diocese and spiritual director of Tibo, said Petobo prison in Palu had ordered that the “detainee should be taken out of solitary confinement despite the controversy surrounding plans for his execution.” Indonesian law stipulates that death row convicts should be “kept apart” in a special cell before appearing before the firing squad.

Tibo was placed in an isolation cell on 9 August, three days before the date initially set for his execution and that of his two friends. Last night, however, the prison authorities decided to impose a much lighter security system on the three men.

The hopes raised by the priest’s statement were quickly dampened by the words of the Attorney General ,Abdul Rahman Saleh, who criticized the decision to cancel the execution of the Catholics, announced by the head of police, Sutanto, at the last minute, on the night of 11 August.

Saleh added: “As far as I know, the police and local authorities in Palu will certainly fix the date for the execution and carry it out. The prosecutor would be mistaken if he did not carry out the sentence handed down by the court.”

General Audience: even public sinners like Matthew are called to follow Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a boy as he greets the faithful from his car, during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday Aug. 30, 2006. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

~Via Asia News

Even a “detestable” tax collector, like the apostle Matthew used to be, an associate of “thieves, unjust people, adulterers”, is not excluded from friendship with Jesus. On the contrary, his “readiness... to respond to the call” leads him to change his life and to become a “model”, so that the “marvellous effects” of “God’s mercy” shine through his existence.

At today’s general audience, held in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Benedict XVI offered a lively and profound sketch of the evangelist Matthew, also known as Levi, the man who laid down the first gospel in the Hebrew language.

After presenting historical data about Matthew-Levi, a collector at Capernaum, the pope expressed his reflections. Above all, there is the fact that “Jesus welcomed into a group of his intimate friends a man who, according to the ideas in vogue in Israel at the time, was held to be a public sinner. Matthew, in fact, not only handled money held to be impure because of its provenance from people foreign to the people of God, but he also collaborated with a foreign authority that was hatefully greedy, whose taxes could be determined in an arbitrary way.” The conclusion the pope was driving at was immediately clear: “Jesus excludes no one from his friendship. In fact, just as he was sitting at table in the house of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who professed to be scandalized by the fact that he was in disreputable company, Jesus made this important statement: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’ (Mk 2:17).” And again: “In the figure of Matthew, then, the Gospels offer us a real paradox: those who are apparently farthest away from holiness can actually become a model of welcome of God’s mercy so that its marvellous effects can be seen in his existence.”

The call of Matthew, like that of the other apostles, highlights the fact that the call to follow Jesus can happen to anybody, even to “people of low social status, while they attend to their mundane work”.

However, the conclusion is not of a “placatory” Christianity: the call of Jesus marks the beginning of transformation and conversion. The painting of Caravaggio of the call of Matthew (in the church of St Luigi dei Francesi), that the pope mentions, is very eloquent in this regard.

Benedict XVI continued: “To the call of Jesus, Matthew responds with an instant ‘he got up and followed him’. The tightness of the sentence clearly shows the readiness with which Matthew responds to the call. For him, this means leaving everything, especially that which used to guarantee him a secure source of income, even if often unjust and dishonourable. Evidently Matthew understood that closeness with Jesus did not allow him to persevere in activities disapproved by God. The application to the present is easily intuited: even today, attachment to things that are incompatible with following Jesus – like dishonestly acquired wealth – is not admissible. Once He said, without half measures: ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ (Mt 19:21). And this is just what Matthew did: he got up and followed up. In this ‘getting up’, it is fair to read the detachment from a situation of sin and also the conscious adherence to a new existence. Not for nothing is the Greek verb used by the evangelist, anastás, the same used elsewhere in the New Testament to express the resurrection of Jesus!”

New Stem-Cell Discovery May Sidestep Ethical Debate

~Excerpted from the National Catholic Register

A team of scientists from the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center stem-cell biology program, led by Dr. Mariusz Ratajczak, have isolated some tiny cells in mouse bone marrow that act indistinguishably from embryonic cells. They have successfully cultured marrow cells, once thought to be useful only for renewing blood cells, into the major tissue types, including brain, nerve, heart muscle and pancreatic cells.

The results, published in the scientific journal Leukemia in February, raised hopes that similar results can be done with human cells. Successes with human cells are now being reported.

These cells, called Very Small Embryonic Like cells or VSELs, behave exactly like embryonic cells, but, since they do not require the destruction of an embryo, their use is morally acceptable.

Ratajczak’s training as a hematologist and oncologist — studying diseases of the blood with a focus on leukemia — led him to believe that there were cells in adult human bone marrow that had not been fully characterized from the standpoint of their scientific and medical potential.

'Newborn’ Cells

Bone marrow and umbilical cord blood are known to contain what are called hematopoietic (blood-making) stem cells. They are useful in treating blood diseases like leukemia. Nobody had ever taken a close look at the entire population of bone marrow/cord blood cells to determine exactly what the mechanism is that helps treat these diseases; they just assumed it was a mechanism of the blood-making cells.

“In all of these deliberations concerning stem-cell plasticity, the concept that (bone marrow) may contain heterogeneous populations of stem cells was surprisingly not taken carefully enough into consideration,” Ratajczak told the Register. “We postulated that the presence of heterogeneous populations of stem cells in [bone marrow] tissue should be considered first. … This led us to the identification of very small embryonic-like stem cells in the adult bone marrow tissue.”


Lord, send us more like Fr. Kram

~by Tom Purcell. From Catholic Exchange

I had my own unfortunate run-in with Father Kram when I was 17. To avoid a red light, I raced through the church parking lot — at the same time he was racing out of the parking lot. It's a miracle we didn't collide.

As I sped onto Baptist Road, I was horrified to see, in my rear view mirror, that Father had turned around — and was in hot pursuit. You have no idea what the meaning of "stress" is until you try to elude your parish priest — while obeying the traffic laws.

He caught up with me a few miles later, recorded my license plate number, tracked down my name from the police, then let me have it on the way into Mass the following Sunday.

Though he ran our parish like a precision manufacturing operation, he enjoyed life and loved to laugh. Somewhere along the way, he learned that my childhood nickname, given to me as a joke, was "Budja." This proved to be a source of great amusement to him over the years.

One day before Easter, we were taken to the confessional to cleanse our sins. There was nothing less pleasant for a kid than telling Father what he'd been up to. Since a screen separated the confessor from the priest, the trick was to disguise your voice.

I recited my list of sins using a low voice and exaggerated dialect — a 10-year-old Jimmy Cagney, see. After I received my penance, I said, "Thank you, Father," and he said, "God bless you, Budja."

I've been mighty wistful about Father Tom Kram, having got word that he died recently at 82. I'm especially sad that so few children today are being shaped by such towering figures.

During the 20 years he served at our parish, he helped hundreds of families celebrate life at its best — weddings, new babies, graduation parties. He counseled us in times of crisis and grief, and consoled us when someone in our family was touched by illness or death.

He had a powerful grasp of the battle between good and evil — the daily civil war that takes place in every human heart and every society — and he hammered home his simple clarity through his actions and words.


Old Calendar: Sts. Felix and Adauctus

In the year 304 Felix was living piously and happily, doing the work of a Christian priest in Rome, when he was captured, along with many other Christians at the start of the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian. First he was savagely tortured. Then he was sentenced to be beheaded, for no torture sufficed to make him give up his Christian beliefs.

Felix was led to the place of execution. So noble and apparently unconcerned did he seem at the prospect of imminent death that one of the crowd who had so far kept secret his own Christianity, shouted out: 'I too follow and believe the same commandments that this man confesses. I too follow and believe in the same Jesus Christ. And I too will give away my life to further his cause.'

The Roman soldiers rushed to seize the man, and he too was beheaded alongside Saint Felix. Unfortunately no-one even gathered his name. He was therefore dubbed 'Adauctus', which simply means 'the additional one'.

Both martyrs were reverently buried in the cemetery of Commodilla on the Ostian Way. By the time the list of martyrs known as the Depositio Martyrum was compiled in the year 354, they were simply known as 'Felix and Adauctus'.

About thirty years later Pope Damasus ordered that their tomb be restored and he put an inscription over it.

~Excerpted from A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley

St. Fiacre

St. Fiacre (also known as Fiachra; Fiachrach; Fiacrius; Fiaker and Fevre) was a hermit at Kilfiachra, Ireland. He left to go to France, and then lived as a solitary at Breuil, Brie, on land given him by St. Faro, bishop of Meaux. Fiacre built a hospice for travelers, attracted many disciples, was known for his charity and aid to the poor, and was consulted by many for his spiritual wisdom. His miracles of healing became legendary. He is the patron saint of gardeners and the cabdrivers of Paris, whose vehicles are called fiacres, since the first coach for hire in Paris was located near the Hotel Saint-Fiacre. He is mentioned in Roman Martyrology for this day.

~From Dictionary of Saints, John J. Delaney

Whoever thirsts, let him come to me and drink his fill

~by St. Columban

My dear brethren, listen to my words. You are going to hear something that must be said. You quench your soul's thirst with drafts of the divine fountain. I now wish to speak of this. Revive yourself, but do not extinguish your thirst. Drink, I say, but do not entirely quench your thirst, for the fountain of life, the fountain of love calls us to him and says: Whoever thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

Understand wll what you drink Jeremiah would tell us; the founatin of life would himself tell us: For they abandoned me, the fountain of living water, says the Lord. The Lord himself, our God, Jesus Christ, is the fountain of life, and accordingly he invites us to himself as to a fountain, that we may drink. Whoever loves him, drinks him; he drinks who is filled with the Word of God, he drinks who loves him fully and really desires him. He drinks who is on fire with the love of wisdom.

Consider the source of the fountain; bread comes down to us from the same place, since the same one is the bread and the fountain, the only-begotten son, our God, Christ the Lord, for whom we should always hunger. We may even eat him out of love for him, and devour him out of desire, longing for him eagerly. Let us drink from him, as from a fountain, with an abundance of love. May we drink him with the fullness of desire, and may we take pleasure in his sweetness and savor.

For the Lord is sweet and agreeable; rightly then let us eat and drink of him yet remian every hungry and thirsty, since he is our food and drink, but can never be wholly eaten and consumed; one can drink of him and he is not diminished because our bread is eternal and our fountain is sweet and everlasting. Hence the propeht says: You who thirst, go to the fountain. He is the fountain for those who are thirsty but are never fully satisfied. Therefore he calls to himself teh hungry whom he raised to a blessed condition elsewhere. They were never satisfied in drinking; the more they drank, the greater their thirst.

It is right, brothers, that we must always long ofr, seek and love the Word of God on high, the fountain of wisdom. According to the Apostle's words all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in him, and he calls the thirsty to drink.

If you thirst, drink of the fountain of life; if you are hungry, eat the bread of life. Blessed are they who hunger for this bread and thirst for this fountain, for in so doing they will desire ever more to eat and drink. For what they eat and drink is exceedingly sweet and their thirst and appetite for more is never satisfied. Though it is ever tasted it is ever more desired. Hence the prophet-king says: Taste and see how sweet, how agreeable is the Lord.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

George Weigel: Great places — Chicago’s Catholic architecture

~George Weigel writes a brief review of the book Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago by Denis McNamara of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary.
[Heavenly City] explains how Catholics built magnificent urban churches, once upon a time, and why those churches are decorated the way they are; James Morris’s stunning photographs bring the results to light for those unfortunate enough not to spend enough time in the Great American City.

Heavenly City is so beautifully illustrated that I can imagine using it as a source of prayer — as many Catholics pray with icons today. It would be fatuous to pick a favorite from the riches that McNamara and Morris lay before the reader. Suffice it to say that they offer almost seventy examples of churches, built in various styles over more than a century, which testify to their builders’ belief that a church is the domus Dei et porta coeli (“the house of God and the gate to heaven”), not simply the domus ecclesiae (“the house of the Church”).

And that, I suggest, is the key to understanding the demise of church architecture in our time: like much else that has gone awry with the once-bright promise of mid-century liturgical renewal (which was rarely taken more seriously than in some of those Chicago churches), the idea that the liturgy is something we do, rather than our privileged participation in something God is doing, is the nub of the problem. Or as one prominent liturgist recently wrote, “If material edifices have any intrinsic meaning, it is because of the community who assembles there and what they do when they are gathered — namely, hear the Word of God proclaimed, break that Word for one another, and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the various sacramental rites.” In other words, it’s all about us. Or mostly about us, with the occasional nod toward the incarnate Word of God, whose Body and Blood we receive in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Heavenly City reminds us that, because our churches are homes for the Blessed Sacrament, it is God himself who gives those buildings their real and full depth of meaning. If we remembered that, we might start building beautiful churches again.

New program of priestly formation for US seminaries

~Via Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new Program of Priestly Formation has been issued for use in all U.S. Catholic seminaries. It places more emphasis on the human formation of seminarians, and especially on formation for celibacy, than did the fourth edition of the program, which had been in effect since 1992. The 98-page revised version of the program, the fifth edition, has been posted on the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Program of Priestly Formation has governed seminary formation in the United States since the bishops issued the first edition in 1971. The new version, reflecting the bishops' recent response to the scandal of clergy sexual abuse of minors, says explicitly for the first time that no seminary applicant is to be accepted if he has been involved in sexual abuse of minors. It also incorporates stricter norms, adopted by the bishops in 1999, on evaluating an application for seminary admission from someone who previously left or was dismissed from a seminary or a formation program for religious life.
+ + +

Click here to read it in pdf

Cardinal Bertone: a reform in the Roman Curia is indeed possible

Milan, Aug. 29, 2006 (CNA) - Two weeks before starting his duties as the new Vatican secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone declared that a reform at the Roman Curia is very likely to happen, in order to make it “smaller and more agile.”

In an interview published by Il Giornale, a Milan newspaper, Cardinal Bertone noted that in the last fifty years “two reforms of the Roman Curia have been conducted, one right after the Second Vatican Council, by Pope Paul VI and another one by Pope John Paul II”.

“After almost two decades, he added, an evaluation of how the dicasteries are organized is more than comprehensible, in order to reflect on how to make the existing structures more efficient for the mission of the Church and eventually to consider whether all of them should be maintained.”

The Cardinal also pointed out that he is “optimistic” in the face of the duties he will assume in two weeks, duties which will make him the closest cooperator with Pope Benedict XVI in the government of the Church.

Archbishop Burke speaks out against ESCR

St. Louis, Aug. 29 ( - Archbishop Raymond Burke has accused proponents of embryonic stem-cell research of using "a tremendous amount of misinformation and disinformation" to promote their cause.

Speaking at a rally organized by opponents of a statewide ballot initiative that would ease legal limits on stem-cell research in Missouri, the archbishop said that embryonic research of the sort being proposed would constitute "the legalized destruction of human life."

The key issue in dispute in the Missouri debate is the meaning of the term "therapeutic cloning." Proponents of the embryo research say that although human embryos may be reproduced, there is no danger of human cloning because no children will be born through the process. Opponents point out that the embryos that are created and harvested for their stem cells are already human beings.

Vatican Secretary of State will stress spiritual mission

~From Catholic World News

The incoming Vatican Secretary of State believes that his mission "transcends politics and diplomacy," and plans to "stress the Church's spiritual mission."

In an interview with the Italian daily Il Giornale, Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone said that he would favor a reorganization of the Roman Curia. He pointed out that the latest significant changes in the Vatican's administrative structure came early in the pontificate of John Paul II. "After nearly two decades, it is understandable that one would want to evaluate the organization of the dicasteries," he said.

Women pretending

Sherry LaVars/Contra Costa Times
Kathleen Strack Kunstler reads along the waterfront in Emeryville. Kunstler is risking ex-communication from the Cathlolic church after she became ordained as a priest.

~Via Contra Costa Times

At 11, Kathleen Stack Kunster felt a strong pull to the priesthood. When the 61-year-old Emeryville woman was finally ordained July 31 in a riverboat ceremony in Pennsylvania she cried for an hour and a half. Oh, boo-freaking-hoo.

"It was extremely powerful -- amazing," said Kunster, who has a master's degree in divinity and a doctorate in psychology. "I've been wrestling with this for a long time. It feels relentless, the knowledge the person is not doing what they're supposed to do, so nothing else fits. It can be painful." Guess who's got you in a headlock?

Since then, Kunster has undergone a transformation of sorts. Everything clicks. A self-described introvert, she finds herself much more approachable.

"It's like I've come into my own," she said. Like, wow!

Kunster is part of a ripple of women who have decided to stop waiting for the Vatican to ordain female priests and go it on their own. Twelve women joined the priesthood with her last month. Ripples are potato chips. And no, there are no priestesses in the Catholic Church...only deluded women behaving badly.

More dreck here

Chapter Meeting

The Capuchins are having their General Chapter Meeting in Rome at the International College of St. Lawrence of Brindisi. Brother Lawrence is blogging about it at Chapter Glossary. (Hat tip to Rocco)
Your host, Brother Lawrence, will give you the news that doesn't appear on the Chapter's official website, along with occasionally snarky commentary. He also hopes to publish news that is of unique interest to the friars of North America and the rest of the English-speaking world. The frequency of Bro. Lawrence's posts will depend upon how busy he is during the Chapter. If those in charge of the Chapter have the Order's best interests in mind, they will keep him very busy indeed.

Disclaimer: Bro. Lawrence isn't much into accuracy so don't expect accountability for anything that is written here. Furthermore, although he believes that the Chapter is serious business, Bro. Lawrence also believes there is room for a little levity. Please visit the official website if you want serious news all the time.

A Church Risen From Ashes

~From the Hartford Courant

Under gray skies and a steady rain, hundreds of worshippers flocked Sunday to the new 2,700-square-foot church for its first service since a propane explosion destroyed the old St. Mary's church on Sept. 10, 2004. Many stopped to pray or place flowers before the white marble statue of the Virgin Mary, which survived the blast.

Sunday's opening of the new church was like "all the feast days rolled into one," said the Most Rev. Paul Chomnycky, Bishop of the Eparchy of Stamford.

"Two years ago, this very site was just a pile of rubble," he said. "Now stands a shining gold dome. Tears of disbelief and sadness are now tears of joy and thankfulness."

Chomnycky told the congregants in his homily that a "special ingredient" went into the rebuilding of the small parish, "maybe a touch of a miracle, the hand of Mary, the mother of God."

"That little miracle was evident right from that first day, because as we know no one was hurt, not even a little," Chomnycky said.


Scotland's Whirling Goddess or the Holy Grail?

Mr. Dan Brown, please pick up the red courtesy phone...

~Via the Scotsman

STARING into the terrifying thunderous tumult of the Corryvreckan whirlpool, it's easy to see why its sheer primal energy has fascinated people for centuries.

Now Edinburgh folklorist Stuart McHardy has suggested a startling new theory - that the awe-inspiring natural vortex between the islands of Scarba and Jura in Argyll and Bute was the true origin of the Holy Grail.

At its wildest, some say the whirlpool forms a spectacular swirling cauldron 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep. The cause is hidden beneath the waves – a giant rock pinnacle rising from the depths to within 95 feet of the surface. Water on the seabed is forced upwards when it hits the submerged rock, causing huge waves. The noise can keep the neighbours awake up to 20 miles away.

McHardy believes that the Corryvreckan was, for pre-Christian Picts, a "Mother Goddess" - the Mother of All Fertility Symbols.

"These ancient pagan tribes saw the whirlpool as a giant cauldron - or Grail - of rebirth," he says. "They believed it was the womb of all creation and could even awaken dead warriors. It was literally their Holy Grail."

In his new book On the Trail of the Holy Grail, McHardy writes that incoming Christian monks tried to erase all trace of this ancient way of thinking. They rewrote what they saw as dangerous pagan beliefs, downplaying the regenerative power of femininity, promoting the idea of a single, male God and disguised the religious significance of the whirlpool.

The final blow to the Old Religion is thought to have come from the legendary warrior Arthur, the hammer of the Picts.

Historian of the Clan Arthur, Hugh McArthur, believes a 10th century Welsh poem contains cryptic clues that reveal the Corryvreckan's central role in early stories about the Holy Grail. Preiddeu Annwnf (The Spoils of Annwn) describes how King Arthur and three boatloads of warriors sail to the Welsh Otherworld to steal a magical "cauldron of inspiration". Arthur's boats pass through the "gates of Hell" to Caer Sidi (the Fortress of the Fairies) but only seven of his force survive.

McArthur writes: "It is this successful but costly raid on the most unassailable fortress in Britain that made Arthur the living legend that he is today. Arthur overcame the challenge, he sailed over the dragon (whirlpool) to Hell's gate, assailed the mountain, slaughtered the pagans and returned triumphant with the hallowed pagan treasures, leaving an ancient religion reeling from a fatal blow."


Appointments to vacant sees

~Interesting prognostication about who will fill in the archbishop vacancies. From the NJ Ledger:

Once Pope Benedict returns to Vatican City from a trip to his native Germany next month, he faces important decisions that will affect millions of Catholics: how to fill archbishop vacancies in Detroit and Baltimore, where archbishops traditionally become cardinals.

New Jersey's Catholics have good reason to follow his decisions: Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, the highest-ranked Catholic clergyman in the state since 2001, is rumored to be the favorite for Detroit's opening.

The Vatican tries to keep its appointments under wraps, though expected vacancies always fuel speculation among priests and within the Catholic community. Adding to the uncertainty is the pope's ultimate discretion in a process that includes input from the papal ambassador to the United States and the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

Nobody who knows whether Myers is among the three finalists -- or whether the selection process has even reached that point -- will speak publicly about it. Myers declined to be interviewed about it.

However, the rumors about Myers moving to Detroit are being discussed among priests, mentioned on the Internet and heard even among some lay people.

One member of the clergy in New Jersey who asked not to be identified said that in late spring, he was present when Myers told a group of clergymen that rumors of his being selected for Detroit were strong.


Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

In addition to the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24), the Church, since the fourth century, commemorates the martyrdom of Christ's precursor. According to the Roman Martyrology, this day marks "the second finding of his most venerable head." The body of the saint was buried in Samaria. In the year 362 pagans desecrated the grave and burned his remains. Only a small portion of his relics were able to be saved by monks and sent to St. Athanasius at Alexandria. The head of the saint is venerated at various places. That in the Church of St. Sylvester in Rome belongs to a martyr-priest John. Also in the Dominican church at Breslau the Baptist's head is honored.

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

Precursor of Christ in birth and death

~by St. Bede the Venerable

As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendour of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptising, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptised in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptise the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rome of the West: All Souls Chapel of St. Louis Cathedral

Marcus has new pictures up. The altar of the Risen Christ is ad orientem and the mosaic work is stunning. Please give Rome of the West a visit.

Pope Benedict brings new style to Vatican

~from Reuters (Hat tip to Rocco)

A much more reserved man than his predecessor, Benedict has installed a new, quieter style in the Vatican's "Sacred Palaces", as the Holy See's buildings are known in Italian.

A German, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lets few "outsiders" into his private apartments, so hints of what is on his mind rarely trickle out.

Even Vatican officials on other floors in the papal palace say they sometimes have trouble guessing what the Pope will decide.

One source famously told me during the first year of the papacy: "I can assure you, we not only know zero, we know less than zero."

Monsignor Georg Ganswein, a 49-year old German with boyish good looks, is the Pope's private secretary.

His style is more reserved that that of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, a sharp, flesh-pressing operator who was the long-time personal secretary to John Paul.

Dziwisz used an extensive web of contacts with journalists and politicians to promote John Paul and let people know what was on his master's mind.

Under Benedict, only those reporters who are doing a pool assignment for the first time can greet him and have their picture taken with him.

Occasionally, Ganswein, a very friendly person with a ready smile, asks reporters himself if they have ever been in the frescoed room before for a pool assignment since Benedict's election on April 19, 2005.


Augustine's Bones

Fr. Z discusses where St. Augustine's bones might be.

Church of Sant'Agostino in Rome

The Church of Sant'Agostino in Rome is the Stational Church on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday. Here is my post from Lent this year.

Today's stational church is Sant'Agostino dedicated to the Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, and is the first Renaissance church in Rome. The history of this church starts in 1286, when the Roman nobleman Egidio Lufredi donated some houses in the area to the Augustinians. They were asked to erect a church and a convent on the site, and after gaining the consent of Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287), this was done the convent was built. However, the church had to wait because of the proximity to the church of St Tryphon in the Via della Scrofa. This church was entrusted to the Augustinians by the Pope. The small church of St Tryphon had several relics, and was a titular church. The title was passed on the Sant'Agostino when that church had been built, but the older church was kept as an annex until it was demolished in 1736.

Orders to build the new church came in 1296, from Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). Bishop Gerard of Sabina placed the foundation stone. Construction was to last nearly one and a half century. It was not completed until 1446, when it finally became possible to celebrate liturgical functions in it.

The church was rebuilt on a larger scale in the same century, during the pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-1484). Funding was arranged by William (Guillaume) Cardinal d'Estouteville, who was the papal Camerlengo (chamberlain) and protector of the Augustinian Order. The design was entrusted to the architects Giacomo di Pietrasanta and Sebastiano Fiorentino. Construction began in 1479, and was finished in 1483 - the year that Cardinal d'Estouteville died. The present orientation was arranged by the Cardinal, who was also the head of the Street Authority, Rome's 'planning commission'. The new church faced the ancient Via Recta (traces of this can be seen in Via delle Coppelle, Via S Agostino and Via dei Coronari), which was one of the main access routes to the Vatican Basilica. The church was also near the now demolished Palazzo Apollinare, where the Cardinal lived.

In the 16th century, a lot of work was done in the interior. One of the artists commissioned for the decoration of the church was the young, but already famous, Michelangelo. In the early 16th century, he started painting The Burial of Christ for the church. He never finished it, and the imcomplete work has made its way to England, where it can be seen in the National Gallery in London.

Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) established it as a cardinalitial title in April 1587. No titular priest was appointed until 1590, when Gregorio Cardinal Petrocchini de Montelbro O.E.S.A. became the first titular priest. The present titular priest is Marcelo Cardinal González Martín, appointed in 1973.

St. Augustine's mother, St. Monnica's tomb is found in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to the left of the high altar. Her relics were moved from Ostia in 1430. Caravaggio's painting, Madonna of the Pilgrims is found in the first chapel to the left of the entrance. Raphael's Isaiah is found on the third pilaster on the left.

China releases underground bishop after decade in prison

~Via Catholic World News

A bishop of China's underground Catholic Church has been released after more than 10 years in prison, the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation reports.

Bishop An Shuxin, an auxiliary of the Baoding diocese in Hebei province, was set free on August 24. He had been arrested in May 1996, in a government raid on the Baoding seminary, where he was rector. Since that time his whereabouts had been unknown.

In what could be a significant step forward for Catholics in China, Bishop An reportedly has received the government's recognition as a bishop, and permission to do pastoral work. The AsiaNews service reports that he accepted the government's recognition, but refused to register with the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association.

The Patriotic Association, which is affiliated with the Communist Party, has sought to establish a Chinese Catholic Church independent of the Holy See. The underground Catholic Church, which maintains loyalty to Rome, has been treated as an illegal organization, and harassment by government forces has been most severe in the Hebei diocese, where the underground Catholic presence is strongest.

The AsiaNews service reports, however, that the stance taken by Bishop An-- accepting the government's recognition but refusing to join forces with the Patriotic Association-- was a solution proposed by Vatican officials in informal talks with the Chinese government. AsiaNews has reported mounting tensions between the Patriotic Association and the Beijing government this year, with the government eventually pressing the Patriotic Association to stop its illicit appointment of new Catholic bishops without Vatican approval.


“Apocalypse Now”: The Pope Rewrites the Script

~by Sandro Magister in Chiesa

In his latest Wednesday general audience, with thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, Benedict XVI continued his catecheses dedicated to the twelve apostles.

In the preceding chapters of this cycle, pope Joseph Ratzinger had sketched the profiles of Peter, Andrew, James the Greater, James the Lesser, and John, in that order.

In the case of John, he first described his life. Then, in a second catechesis, he discussed the central content of the Gospel and the letters that bear his name: charity, or love.

In this third catechesis dedicated to John, delivered to the faithful on Wednesday, August 23, 2006, Benedict XVI instead focused on the book of Revelation, which also bears the name of the apostle.

The book of Revelation, the last one in the Bible, is held to be one of the most difficult to read and interpret. In modern terminology, its Greek title, “Apocalypse,” is in general associated with the immanent arrival of a catastrophe.

But Benedict XVI has worked the miracle of synthesizing and clarifying in a simple way the meaning of the Apocalypse, in an address of only 1200 words.

The aim of the book, he said, “is to unveil, from the death and resurrection of Christ, the meaning of human history.”

Without Christ, he continued, history remains undecipherable – both yesterday’s history and that which is unfolding today. The seven Churches of Asia which John addresses in his book are in anguish “because of God's silence in the face of the persecutions to which they were exposed at that time. It is a disconcertment which might well reflect our surprise in the face of the grave difficulties, misunderstandings and hostilities that the Church also suffers today in several parts of the world.”

It is only Christ, the Lamb who has been slain and yet lives, who is able to open the sealed book of history and reveal its contents – Christ who has come, who will return at the end of time, and who comes today in the Eucharist.


Da Vinci coders vandalise church

~Via BBC

Treasure hunters trying to crack the Da Vinci Code are believed to be behind criminal damage at a village church with links to the Holy Grail.
Chisels and hammers were used to chip away at walls inside St Luke's church in Hodnet, Shropshire.

The church has attracted many visitors including tourists from overseas after its links to the Holy Grail were featured in a book and website.

The Reverend Charmian Beech said: "They seemed to know what they were doing."

A number of holes were chiselled into the stonework of the Grade I-listed 14th Century church in the nave, near the choir vestry door and by a stained glass window.

That window has helped fuel the church's links to the Da Vinci Code because there is a feminine-looking St. John - one of the major themes of the best-selling novel by Dan Brown.

The Rev Beech said: "We are not sure what they were looking for.

"There is nothing really left to find at Hodnet Church, apart from God. We are fed up with it."


With strong faith, seminarian stood up to Castro and was expelled from Cuba

~from the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey

WEST MILFORD - Cuban-born Enrique Corona, a diocesan seminarian, most likely has never heard of Richard Stockton, one of the America's Founding Fathers. Although separated by 230 years of history, both men have this in common - each of them put his own freedom on the line, enduring a prison sentence for having gathered up the courage to put pen to paper in voice of freedom.

At the dawn of the American Revolution, Stockton, a New Jerseyan, made the brave decision to sign the Declaration of Independence - an act of treason to the British- and was later jailed. More than two centuries later, in 1992, Corona would muster up the courage to write a letter in support of freedom in Fidel Castro-controlled Cuba. For that daring act, the seminarian had been sentenced to three years, three months and 22 days in a Cuban prison.

"I was frightened. I was worried for my family," said 36-year-old Corona, who was imprisoned for penning a letter in support of the Cuban Catholic bishops' pastoral letter, which called for greater human, political and economic rights in the communist-run Caribbean nation. "After a few days in prison, I figured that I'm here for some reason. Jesus had spent a few hours in prison. The Apostles had spent time in prison."

Serving this summer at Our Lady of Peace Parish here in the Hewitt section of the township, Corona signed his "John Hancock" on the letter and sent to a friend in Elizabeth and it was published widely. The Cuban native, who expects to be called to priesthood in the Paterson Diocese next year, knew full well he was risking his own freedom.

"Castro was angry and attacked the Church," Corona said of Cuba's dictator, who this week made history - for the first time, Castro had handed power to his brother Raul as he had intestinal for intestinal bleeding. "The police had found out about the letter. The judge, a jury and lawyers were communists. I was sentenced to 19 years for enemy propaganda."

Having a call to be a priest since he was 12, Corona used his time in the Cuban prison in the service of God. He led a religious education class in his section that grew in popularity.

Corona's mother, Maria, came to his rescue. Her family hails from Galicia in Spain, so she found in herself the bravery to "work the system" and talk to the Spanish ambassador to Cuba. With the help of the Princess of Astoria, negotiations were made with the Castro regime to release Corona in 1997. But there was a serious catch - he was expelled from his homeland. He returned briefly five years ago but has been unable to see his family since.

"I miss my family a lot," said Corona, a nurse by profession, who traveled back to Cuba on a short-term humanitarian while working with the Red Cross.

It also took a great amount of courage for Corona to want to pursue the priesthood in communist-controlled Cuba. Because of persecution, Cubans were afraid to got to Mass at their local churches. At one point, Catholic seminaries there were nearly empty, Corona said.

"When I told my parents, they were worried," said Corona, who noted that his father, Radames, was particularly upset; at home, his mother had taught him Catholic prayers in a quiet, unassuming way.

At first, Corona's desire to become a priest seems unlikely. By age 12, he had never met any priest and never attended Masses at his hometown parish of St. Paul of Jiguani. But as a boy, the seminarian would become bedazzled by his parents' and grandparents' detailed descriptions of parish life.


Feast of St. Augustine, bishop

Augustine Aurelius was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, North Africa. His father was a pagan, his mother St. Monica. Still unbaptized and burning for knowledge, he came under the influence of the Manicheans, which caused his mother intense sorrow. He left Africa for Rome, deceiving his mother, who was ever anxious to be near him. She prayed and wept. A bishop consoled her by observing that a son of so many tears would never be lost. Yet the evil spirit drove him constantly deeper into moral degeneracy, capitalizing on his leaning toward pride and stubbornness. Grace was playing a waiting game; there still was time, and the greater the depths into which the evil spirit plunged its fledgling, the stronger would be the reaction.

Augustine recognized this vacuum; he saw how the human heart is created with a great abyss; the earthly satisfactions that can be thrown into it are no more than a handful of stones that hardly cover the bottom. And in that moment grace was able to break through: Restless is the heart until it rests in God. The tears of his mother, the sanctity of Milan's Bishop Ambrose, the book of St. Anthony the hermit, and the sacred Scriptures wrought his conversion, which was sealed by baptism on Easter night 387. Augustine's mother went to Milan with joy and witnessed her son's baptism. It was what it should have been, the greatest event of his life, his conversion — metanoia. Grace had conquered. Augustine accompanied his mother to Ostia, where she died. She was eager to die, for now she had given birth to her son for the second time.

In 388 he returned to Tagaste, where he lived a common life with his friends. In 391 he was ordained priest at Hippo, in 394 made coadjutor to bishop Valerius, and then from 396 to 430 bishop of Hippo.

Augustine, numbered among the four great Doctors of the Western Church, possessed one of the most penetrating minds of ancient Christendom. He was the most important Platonist of patristic times, the Church's most influential theologian, especially with regard to clarifying the dogmas of the Trinity, grace, and the Church. He was a great speaker, a prolific writer, a saint with an inexhaustible spirituality. His Confessions, a book appreciated in every age, describes a notable portion of his life (until 400), his errors, his battles, his profound religious observations. Famous too is his work The City of God, a worthy memorial to his genius, a philosophy of history. Most edifying are his homilies, especially those on the psalms and on the Gospel of St. John.

Augustine's episcopal life was filled with mighty battles against heretics, over all of whom he triumphed. His most illustrious victory was that over Pelagius, who denied the necessity of grace; from this encounter he earned the surname "Doctor of grace." As an emblem Christian art accords him a burning heart to symbolize the ardent love of God which permeates all his writings. He is the founder of canonical life in common; therefore Augustinian monks and the Hermits of St. Augustine honor him as their spiritual father.

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

O Eternal Truth, true love and beloved eternity

~from Confessions by St. Augustine

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blessed Dominic Barbieri

Yesterday was Bl. Dominic Barbieri's feast day. I was in transit and couldn't post anything. Here's Father PF's entry. John Henry Newman was received into the Catholic Church by Fr. Dominic Barbieri.

Miracle of Mary’s House in Ephesus, spared from the flames

~Via Asia News

Ankara – People are saying it is a miracle while religious admit the incident was indeed “extraordinary”. A devastating summer fire in Turkey wiped out 1,200 hectares of forest and came to a halt barely a metre away from the House of Mary, near Selcuk, a shrine that is the destination of pilgrims from all over the world, Christians and Muslims. The house of Meryem Ana is also likely to be a stage in the journey of Pope Benedict XVI to this country at the end of November. This led some of the media to think, at first, that the fire was caused by arson, while others suspected an attack by the PKK of the Kurds. Speculations were put to rest when it was found that the fire was probably caused by people who were picnicking in the forest: the heat, dryness and wind contributed to the fire, as happened in other coastal areas.

On Sunday 20 August, as a result of the torrid heat sweeping across Turkey and the strong dry wind, 23 enormous forest fires were reported at the same time along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. They struck the most crowded tourist areas like Bodrum and Antalya and 1,200 hectares of forest were burnt. Even Izmir zone was not spared and the “House of Our Lady” risked going up in flames. Fully immersed in greenery, it was reached by the fire that spread from the bottom of the hill, furiously burning everything that came in its way.

But the flames, as if by magic, stopped barely a metre away from the simple brick house. The building consists of two sections identified as the living room and bedroom of the Virgin, who is said to have ended her earthly life here. Currently the place is a shrine, the destination of both Christian and Muslim pilgrims who come from all around the world. Everyone immediately claimed this was a miracle and the news was reported in capital letters in the headlines of the main national papers.

The extraordinary nature of the event was confirmed by an Italian Capuchin, Fr Adriano Franchini, resident of Meryem Ana Evi (Mary’s house) and superior of the Custody of Turkey. “Yes, we had a rough time,” he said. “After receiving the notice to evacuate, I concerned myself with bringing the car to a place of safety to be able to escape. I found for our guests and then I wanted to return home to get some things but there was no chance to do so, we could no longer approach: we saw the smoke and the high flames coming closer. We feared the wind may change direction and we would be trapped; the speed with which the flames spread and advances among the pine trees was incredible.”

He continued: “We had to escape quickly amid tears and desperate searching for relatives, but everyone was able to reach safety. When we came together down in Selcuk (a town at the foot of the hill), the first news that reached us from the helicopters, when they finally arrived, were really bad: everything is burning, nothing will be saved! Then there was a ray of optimism... at last, towards the evening, there was the realization that the fire had been truly devastating, spreading across a large area and all around Meryem Ana and our homes, but the shrine and homes had remained intact!”

The Franciscan did not say it was a miracle, but he admitted that what had happened was extraordinary. “Even around our houses, the fire reached the outer wall on three sides, and a burnt tree fell on the roof but the flames did not take hold in the residence; even a palm tree one metre from the house was burnt to cinders! The fire around the shrine came as far as the benches outside, where mass is celebrated in the open, and stopped there. People who saw the devastation all around say it is a miracle. Certainly it is a scenario with incredible features.”

None of the many pilgrims present were injured and the incident did nothing to stop the flux of tourists and believers, who are currently going in even greater numbers to take stock of the disaster and to admire the miracle.

Angelus: St. Monica a comfort for suffering mothers

Faithful cheer at Pope Benedict XVI during the Angelus noon prayer in Castel Gandolfo, in the outskirts of Rome, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

~Translated by Teresa Benedetta of Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we remember Saint Monica, and tomorrow her son Saint Augustine - their Christian witness can be a great comfort and help to so many families even in our time.

Monica, born to a Christian family in Tagaste in what is now Tunisia, lived in exemplary manner her mission as wife and mother, helping her husband Patrick to discover the beauty of faith in Christ and the power of evangelical love, capable of triumphing over evil with good.

After her husband's early death, Monica dedicated herself with courage to raising three children, one of them Augustine, who initially made her suffer because he had a somewhat rebellious temperament.

As Augustine himself would later say, his mother delivered him twice: the second time required a long spiritual labour of prayers and tears, but crowned at the end by the joy of seeing him not only embracing the faith and receiving Baptism, but even dedicating himself entirely to the service of Christ.

How much difficulty there is even today in family relationships and how many mothers are anguished because their children have strayed onto wrong paths!

Monica, a wise woman who was firm in her faith, invites mothers not to be discouraged, but to persevere in their mission as wife and mother, keeping firm their trust in God and holding fast with perseverance to prayer.

As for Augustine, all his existence was a passionate search for truth. At the end, but not without long interior torment, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full sense of his own life and of the entire human story.

Attracted by earthly life in his adolescence, he 'threw himself' into it - as he himself confided (cfr Confessions 10,27-30) - in an egoistic and possessive manner, behaving in ways that caused not a few sufferings to his pious mother.

But through an effortful route, thanks to her prayers, Augustine started opening up to the fullness of truth and love, until his covnersion which took place in Milan under the guidance of the bishop Saint Ambrose.

And so Augustine became a model for one path to God, the supreme Truth and the highest Good.

"Late did I come to love you," he writes in his famous book of Confessions, "Beauty that is so old and so new, late did I come to love you. But You were within me, and I was outside where I searched for You...You were with me but I was not with You...You called me, you cried out, you broke through my deafness. You blinded me, srurck me with lightning, and finally healed my blindness" (ibid).

May St. Augustine obtain the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ for all the young people who, thirsting for happiness, look for it by going down the wrong pathways and losing themselves in dead ends.

St. Monica and St. Augustine invite us to address ourselves with trust to Mary, Seat of Wisdom. To her, let us entrust Crhstian parents so that like Monica, they may accompany with their example and with their prayers their children's way in the world.

To the Virgin Mother of God, we commend our youth so that, like Augustine, they may always tend towards the fullness of Truth and Love - Christ who alone can satisfy the profound desires of the human heart.

Before proceeding to greet the pilgrims in various languages, the Pope said this:

Next September 1, the Church in Italy celebrates the first Day to Safeguard the Environment - creation which is God's great gift that is now exposed to serious risks by choices and styles of life that can degrade it.

Environmental degradation helps make the life of the poor on earth unsustainable. In dialog with Chistians of other confessions, we should commit ourselves to taking care of nature, without exhausting its resources but sharing them in a spirit of solidarity.

On this occasion, I am happy to welcome today representatives of a pilgrimage that followed the Via Francigena from Switzerland to Rome to promote awareness and respect for the environment.

Later, in English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus including the new students from the Pontifical North American College, and the former All-Ireland Hurling champions from Offaly.

Today’s Gospel invites us to join Peter and profess our complete trust in the Lord, who alone has the words of eternal life. May your stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome renew your faith in Christ, and may God bless you all!

A Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficient that thou shouldest enter under my roof into the habitation of my soul, for it is all deserted and in ruins, and thou hast not a fitting place in me to lay thy head. But as from the heights of thy glory thou didst humble thyself, so now bear me in my humility; as thou didst deign to lie in a manger in a cave, so deign now also to come into the manger of my mute soul and corrupt body. As thou didst not refrain from entering into the house of Simon the leper, or shrink from eating there with sinners, so also vouchsafe to enter the house of my poor soul, all leprous and full of sin. Thou didst not reject the sinful woman who ventured to draw near to touch thee, so also have pity on me, a sinner, approaching to touch thee.

And grant that I may partake of thine All-holy Body and Precious Blood for the sanctification, enlightenment and strengthening of my weak soul and body; for the relief from the burden of my many sins; for my preservation against all the snares of the devil; for victory over all my sinful and evil habits; for the mortification of my passions; for obedience to thy Commandments; for growth in thy divine Grace and for the inheritance of thy Kingdom. For it is not with careless heart that I approach thee, O Christ my God, but I come trusting in thine infinite goodness, and fearing lest I may be drawn afar from thee and become the prey of the wolf of souls. Wherefore I pray thee, O Master, who alone art holy, that thou wouldest sanctify my soul and body, my mind and heart and reins, and renew me entirely. Implant in my members the fear of thee, be thou my helper and guide, directing my life in the paths of peace, and make me worthy to stand at thy right hand with thy Saints; through the prayers and intercessions of thine immaculate Mother, of thy Bodiless Servitors, of the immaculate Powers, and of all the Saints who from all ages have been well-pleasing unto thee. Amen.

Father Cantalamessa: Husbands, love your wives

This time I would like to focus attention on the second reading of the day (Ephesians 5:21-32) because it has a theme of great interest for the family.

Reading Paul's words with modern eyes, one immediately sees a difficulty. Paul recommends to husband that they "love" their wives (and this is good), but he also recommends to women that they be submissive to their husbands, and this -- in a society strongly (and justly) conscious of the equality of the sexes -- seems unacceptable.

In fact, it's true. On this point St. Paul is conditioned in part by the mentality of his age. However, the solution is not in eliminating from relations between husbands and wives the word "submission," but, perhaps, in making it mutual, as love must also be mutual.

In other words, not only must husbands love their wives, but wives must also love their husbands. Not only must wives be subject to their husbands, but also husbands to their wives, in mutual love and mutual submission.

In this case, to be subject means to take into account the wishes, opinion and sensitivity of one's spouse; to discuss, not to decide on one's own; to be able to give up one's own point of view. In short, to remember that both are "spouses," that is, literally, persons who are under "the same yoke," freely chosen.

The Apostle gives Christian spouses as model the relationship of love that exists between Christ and the Church, but he explains immediately in what such love consisted: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her." True love is manifested in "giving" oneself to the other.

There are two ways of expressing one's love for the beloved. The first is to give presents, to fill the other with gifts; the second, much more demanding, consists in suffering for one's spouse.

God loved us in the first way when he created us and filled us with goods: Heaven, earth, flowers, our bodies, everything is a gift of his. But then, in the fullness of time, in Christ, he came to us and suffered for us, unto death on the cross.

This is also true in human love. At the beginning, the newly married express their love with gifts. But the time comes for all when presents are not enough. It is necessary to be able to suffer with and for the beloved. One must love despite the limitations one discovers in the other, and despite the moments of poverty and illnesses.

This is true love which is like Christ's.

In general, the first kind of love is called "seeking love" (with a Greek word, eros); the second kind, "giving love" (with the Greek word agape).

The sign that a couple is passing from seeking to giving love, from eros to agape, is this: Instead of saying "What more could my husband do for me (respectively, my wife) which he still does not do?" one begins to ask: "What more could I do for my husband (or my wife) which I still have not done?"

Lord, to whom shall we go?

The Gospel is from St. John 6:60-69. As we heard last Sunday, St. John was writing about the promise of the Blessed Eucharist at a time when Christians accepted the Mass and Holy Communion as the essential act of Christian worship. Very probably he omitted many details when describing this promise. The "disciples" who murmured evidently saw nothing but a man in Christ, It was very natural, therefore, that they could not accept his saying that they should eat his body and drink his blood. Thus it seems most probable that when Christ says they lacked "faith," he had given them sufficient proofs that he was more than a man. These individuals among the disciples, however, refused to open their minds to these proofs; therein was their guilt. Their minds were earth-bound and were determined to remain earth-bound. Faith is a gift of the Father, as Christ says to those disciples: "no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father," but the Father has offered them this gift and they have refused to accept it; otherwise they would not be guilty.

No one who accepts Christ for what he is, the Son of God in human form, has any difficulty in believing that he left us himself in the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a sacrament. This does not mean that we understand this gift of Christ in all its details—it was an act of divine power and as such beyond full human comprehension. However, we can understand enough about the actuality of the Eucharist because we accept the words of Christ, who "has the words of eternal life," even though its innermost nature escapes us. We are doing no violence to our intelligence when we accept as fact from a trustworthy witness what we cannot prove or confirm for ourselves. No more trustworthy witness than Christ ever existed. In Galilee he promised to give his body and blood in the Eucharist—to be our spiritual nourishment — communion — and our means of offering an absolutely pleasing sacrifice to God every time his body and blood are made present by the words of his ordained minister. He fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper. He gave to his Apostles and their successors the power to repeat this act of divine love when he said: "Do this in memory of me."

When Simon Peter answered Christ's challenge—"will you too go away?"—he spoke not only for his fellow-Apostles that day with: "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." but for all Christians who really believe that Christ was the incarnate Son of God. Peter, be it noted, made his act of faith before he was fully convinced of the divinity of Christ, but he was already convinced that Christ was close to God and spoke nothing but the truth.

We have the proofs of Christ's divinity which Peter and the Apostles later got. We have also the faith of two thousand years of the Christians whose belief in the Blessed Eucharist as a sacrifice and sacrament was at the very center of their Christian lives. We have also the noble example of many martyrs who gladly gave their lives in defense of this truth. Our faith may never be put to such an extreme test, but should it be, God grant that we will not be found wanting.

Many of us may need to examine ourselves as regards the full and effective use we make of that gift. Every time we attend at Mass do we realize that Christ is offering himself to his Father for our sanctification and the sanctification of the world? Do we realize that we, through his minister at the altar, are offering infinite thanksgiving, infinite atonement, infinite adoration, infinitely effective petition, to our Father in heaven through the sacrifice of his divine Son in the Mass? Are we always worthy to act this part, are our consciences fit to allow us to partake of this sacrifice in Holy Communion? A true Christian who realizes and appreciates what the Son of God has done and is still doing for him will try always to make himself less unworthy, for not even the greatest saint was worthy to partake of this act of divine love.

~Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Time to say goodbye...

...this afternoon. A rite of passage for both our son and us. The drive home will be long and will feel strange. The family dog will be looking for when we get home. Time flies.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Day Two

It's Day Two of orientation at Catholic U. We are trying to balance sightseeing for the rest of the family in between sessions for parents and students. The Metro is quite useful--we don't have to worry about parking. We've not had time to be emotional which is a good thing. The summer of our son working in another state this past summer has helped us transition to this new phase in our family life. My confessor has heard about internal struggles through the summer, so that work has come useful during these intense days. I'll try and post some reflections tonight.

St. Louis IX

Reigning from 1226 to 1270, Louis IX showed how a saint would act on the throne of France. A lovable personality, a kind husband, a father of eleven children, and at the same time a strict ascetic.
To an energetic and prudent rule Louis added love and zeal for the practice of piety and the reception of the holy sacraments. Brave in battle, polished at feasts, addicted to fasting and mortification. His politics were grounded upon strict justice, unshatterable fidelity, and untiring effort toward peace. Nevertheless, his was not a weakly rule but one that left its impress upon following generations. He was a great friend of religious Orders, a generous benefactor of the Church.

The Breviary says of him: "He had already been king for twenty years when he fell victim to a severe illness. That afforded the occasion for making a vow to undertake a crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. Immediately upon recovery he received the crusader's cross from the hand of the bishop of Paris, and, followed by an immense army, he crossed the sea in 1248. On the field of battle Louis routed the Saracens; yet when the plague had taken large numbers of his soldiery, he was attacked and taken captive (1250). The king was forced to make peace with the Saracens; upon the payment of a huge ransom, he and his army were again set at liberty." While on a second crusade he died of the plague, with these words from the psalm upon his lips: "I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!" (Ps. 5).

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

One Mediator between God and Men

~by St. Ambrose

Brother cannot redeem brother, but a man will redeem man. No one can give to God the ransom for himself nor the price of his soul's redemption. Christ is saying: What have I to fear in the day of evil? What can do me harm if I do not need a redeemer but am myself the redeemer of all mankind? Shall I free others, yet tremble for myself? See, I shall make all things new, so as to surpass even the love and devotion of brothers. Where a brother, born of the same womb, cannot redeem, suffering as he does from the infirmity of a common nature, yet a man will redeem, that man of whom it is written: The Lord will send them a man who will save them; the man who said of himself: You seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you.

He is a man, yet who will recognize him? Why will no one recognize him? Because, as there is one God, so there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. He alone will redeem man, showing love greater even than that of brothers. He poured out his blood for strangers, as no one is able to do for a brother. He did not spare his own body in redeeming us from sin, but gave himself as the redemption of all, and Paul the apostle is a true witness to him: I speak the truth and do not lie.

But why will this man be the only redeemer? Because no one can equal him in the love he showed in laying down his life for his own poor servants. Nor can anyone equal him in sinlessness, for all men are ruled by sin, and all are victims of the fall of the first Adam. He alone is chosen to redeem, for he alone cannot be subject to that age-old sin. So let us understand by "the man" the one who took upon himself the condition of man in order to crucify in his own flesh the sin of all, and to cancel by his own blood the debt owed by all: the Lord Jesus.

You may ask: How can we say that a brother cannot redeem when the man we are discussing has said: I shall declare your name to my brothers? But it was not as our brother but as the man Christ Jesus, in whom God dwelt, that he forgave our sins. For it is written that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. God was in the man Christ Jesus, of whom alone it was said: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It was not therefore, as a brother but as the Lord that he dwelt among us in the flesh.