Friday, September 29, 2006

Pope's Response to Priests on the Family

~via Zenit
Here is a Vatican translation of the fourth of Benedict XVI's five answers to as many questions posed by priests of the Diocese of Albano during a meeting Aug. 31.

Q: What can we priests do to express this proposal in pastoral praxis and, according to what you yourself have just reaffirmed, to communicate positively the beauty of marriage which can still make the men and women of our time fall in love? What can the sacramental grace of spouses contribute to our lives as priests?


Two tremendous questions! The first one is: How is it possible to communicate the beauty of marriage to the people of today? We see how many young people are reluctant to marry in Church because they are afraid of finality; indeed, they are even reluctant to have a civil wedding.

Today, to many young people and even to some who are not so young, definitiveness appears as a constriction, a limitation of freedom. And what they want first of all is freedom. They are afraid that in the end they might not succeed. They see so many failed marriages. They fear that this juridical form, as they understand it, will be an external weight that will extinguish love.

It is essential to understand that it is not a question of a juridical bond, a burden imposed with marriage. On the contrary, depth and beauty lie precisely in finality. Only in this way can love mature to its full beauty. But how is it possible to communicate this? I think this problem is common to us all.

For me, in Valencia -- and Your Eminence, you can confirm this -- it was an important moment not only when I talked about this, but when various families presented themselves to me with one or more children; one family was virtually a "parish," it had so many children! The presence and witness of these families really was far stronger than any words.

They presented first of all the riches of their family experience: how such a large family truly becomes a cultural treasure, an opportunity for the education of one and all, a possibility for making the various cultural expressions of today coexist, the gift of self, mutual help also in suffering, etc.

But their testimony of the crises they had suffered was also significant. One of these couples had almost reached the point of divorcing. They explained that they then learned to live through this crisis, this suffering of the otherness of the other, and to accept each other anew. Precisely in overcoming the moment of crisis, the desire to separate, a new dimension of love developed and opened the door to a new dimension of life, which nothing but tolerating the suffering of the crisis could reopen.

This seems to me very important. Today, a crisis point is reached the moment the diversity of temperament is perceived, the difficulty of putting up with each other every day for an entire life. In the end, then, they decided: Let us separate. From these testimonies we understood precisely that in crises, in bearing the moment in which it seems that no more can be borne, new doors and a new beauty of love truly open.

A beauty consisting of harmony alone is not true beauty. Something is missing, it becomes insufficient. True beauty also needs contrast. Darkness and light complement each other. Even a grape, in order to ripen, does not only need the sun but also the rain, not only the day but also the night.

We priests ourselves, both young and old, must learn the need for suffering and for crises. We must put up with and transcend this suffering. Only in this way is life enriched. I believe that the fact the Lord bears the stigmata for eternity has a symbolic value. As an expression of the atrocity of suffering and death, today the stigmata are seals of Christ's victory, of the full beauty of his victory and his love for us. We must accept, both as priests and as married persons, the need to put up with the crises of otherness, of the other, the crisis in which it seems that it is no longer possible to stay together.

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Pope to Consider Cardinal Zen's Retirement

ROME, SEPT. 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has promised to consider allowing Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun to retire as bishop of Hong Kong, and expressed his affection for the city's Catholics, says a news report.

Speaking after a private audience with the Pope, the 74-year-old Cardinal Zen said he had told the Pontiff of his desire to retire as head of the Hong Kong Diocese to play a bigger role in affairs related to the mainland Church, according to the South China Morning Post.

"The Holy Father said he will consider it," Cardinal Zen said Wednesday after he emerged from the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

Msgr Lajolo: Pope against religious violence and exclusion of God in the west

~via Asia News

28 September, 2006 - The address of Benedict XVI has reached the United Nations. During a speech delivered yesterday evening at the UN General Assembly, Mgr Giovanni Lajolo specified that the pope condemned “religious motivations for violence”, but also attempts by politicians to “exclude God” from a society “relegating religion to the ambit of subcultures”.

The lecture delivered by the pope at the German university, continued the Vatican’s former minister for foreign affairs, was intended to be a “boost and an encouragement for positive and even self-critical dialogue, both between religions and between modern reason and the faith of Christians”. Beyond the misinterpretations that came about, the pope’s “real intention” was to explain that “‘not religion and violence, but religion and reason go together’, in the context of a critical vision of a society which seeks to exclude God from public life”.

Mgr Lajolo said: “If, on the one hand, religious motivation for violence, whatever its source, must be clearly and radically rejected, on the other, it must be emphasized that in political life one cannot disregard the contribution of the religious vision of the world and of humanity.” For Mgr Lajolo, there is practically a cause-effect relationship between the two phenomena: “If reason to turn a deaf ear to the divine and relegate religion to the ambit of subcultures, it would automatically provoke violent reactions: and violent reactions are always a falsification of true religion”. While the whole world could talk only about friction in the Muslim world after the Regensburg address, nothing was said about the fact that “the Holy Father, in defending the openness of political and cultural activity to the Transcendent, did not wish to do anything other than make a decisive contribution to the dialogue between cultures, by helping to open western thought to the riches of the patrimony of all religions.”

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The word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature



~by Pope St. Gregory the Great

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy”.

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

St. Michael, archangel

The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, who is like unto God? and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host". He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor and wearing sandals. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.

This day is referred to as "Michaelmas" in many countries and is also one of the harvest feast days. In England this is one of the "quarter days", which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called "Saint Michael's Love" (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael's Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.

~Catholic Culture

St. Raphael, archangel


Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means "God has healed".

St. Gabriel, archangel


St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachary when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation.
The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, Hail Mary, full of grace, has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dubious honor

...goes to Yale University. I see UNC-Chapel Hill ranks #14. Some at Georgetown are not happy with the score the University received. Reason given? By refusing to accept the "inevitability" of sexual activity and "by stubbornly adhering to antiquated Church doctrine" (are we talking about the same Georgetown?), the University is failing its students.

Turkish leader renews criticism of Pope

Sep. 28 (CWNews.com) - Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has renewed his criticism of Pope Benedict XVI, who is scheduled to visit Turkey in November.

In his speech to the university faculty of Regensburg, Erdogan said, the Pope "spoke in a way that is not fitting even for us politicians." He said that the Pontiff had insulted Mohammed, and "we could not tolerate this."

The Turkish premier complained that Pope Benedict still has not apologized for his speech, saying that public statements released by the Vatican and by the Pontiff himself have been "maneuvers" to avoid direct responsibility. He predicted that when the Pontiff travels to Turkey in November, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will "say the necessary things" to rebuke him.

Oh, where are thunderbolts when you need them?

Muslim reactions to the Pope’s remarks are “politicised”, Moscow Patriarchate says

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Russian Orthodox Church has come to the defence of Pope Benedict XVI. Believing that his remarks have not been correctly interpreted, it urges Muslims to give “more balanced assessments to [the Pope’s] statements and lectures on Islam”.

“The harsh reaction of some in the Islamic community to the address of the Roman pontiff to an academic audience in the context of modern theological discussion appears to be inadequate,” wrote Igumen Filaret Bulekov, the Moscow Patriarchate’s observer at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, in an article published on Tuesday in the Russian daily Vedemosti.

For Father Bulekov, this reaction was not so much a disagreement of representatives of one religion with the attitude of a theologian expressing the position of another religion as ‘a politicized assessment of a religious statement”.

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Archbishop Milingo unswayed by excommunication

Washington, Sep. 28 (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has said that he will not be deterred the excommunication announced by the Vatican on September 26.

"We do not accept this excommunication and lovingly return it to His Holiness," the African archbishop told a news conference in Washington on September 27. He said that he would ask the Pope to "withdraw it and join us in recalling married priests to service once again."

Pope's Response to Priests on the Liturgy

~via Zenit

Here is a translation of the third of five answers that Benedict XVI gave to as many questions from priests of the Diocese of Albano during a meeting Aug. 31 at papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. The residence is located in the diocese.

On the question of "ars celebrandi" Pope Benedict answered:


"Ars celebrandi": here too I would say that there are different dimensions. The first dimension is that the "celebration" is prayer and a conversation with God: God with us and us with God. Thus, the first requirement for a good celebration is that the priest truly enter this colloquy.

In proclaiming the Word, he feels himself in conversation with God. He is a listener to the Word and a preacher of the Word, in the sense that he makes himself an instrument of the Lord and seeks to understand this Word of God which he must then transmit to the people. He is in a conversation with God because the texts of holy Mass are not theatrical scripts or anything like them, but prayers, thanks to which, together with the assembly, I speak to God.

It is important, therefore, to enter into this conversation. St. Benedict in his Rule tells the monks, speaking of the recitation of the Psalms, "Mens concordet voci." The "vox," words, precede our mind. This is not usually the case: One has to think first, then one's thought becomes words. But here, the words come first. The sacred Liturgy gives us the words; we must enter into these words, find a harmony with this reality that precedes us.

In addition, we must also learn to understand the structure of the liturgy and why it is laid out as it is. The liturgy developed in the course of two millenniums and even after the Reformation was not something worked out by simply a few liturgists. It has always remained a continuation of this ongoing growth of worship and proclamation.

Thus, to be well in tune, it is very important to understand this structure that developed over time and to enter with our "mens" into the "vox" of the Church. To the extent that we have interiorized this structure, comprehended this structure, assimilated the words of the liturgy, we can enter into this inner consonance and thus not only speak to God as individuals, but enter into the "we" of the Church, which is praying. And we thus transform our "I" in this way, by entering into the "we" of the Church, enriching and enlarging this "I," praying with the Church, with the words of the Church, truly being in conversation with God.

This is the first condition: We ourselves must interiorize the structure, the words of the liturgy, the Word of God. Thus, our celebration truly becomes a celebration "with" the Church: Our hearts are enlarged and we are not doing just anything but are "with" the Church, in conversation with God. It seems to me that people truly feel that we converse with God, with them, and that in this common prayer we attract others, in communion with the children of God we attract others; or if not, we are only doing something superficial.

Thus, the fundamental element of the true "ars celebrandi" is this consonance, this harmony between what we say with our lips and what we think with our heart. The "Sursum corda," which is a very ancient word of the liturgy, should come before the Preface, before the liturgy, as the "path" for our speaking and thinking. We must raise our heart to the Lord, not only as a ritual response but as an expression of what is happening in this heart that is uplifted, and also lifts up others.

In other words, the "ars celebrandi" is not intended as an invitation to some sort of theater or show, but to an interiority that makes itself felt and becomes acceptable and evident to the people taking part. Only if they see that this is not an exterior or spectacular "ars" -- we are not actors! -- but the expression of the journey of our heart that attracts their hearts too, will the liturgy become beautiful, will it become the communion with the Lord of all who are present.

Of course, external things must also be associated with this fundamental condition, expressed in St. Benedict's words: "Mens concordet voci" -- the heart is truly raised, uplifted to the Lord. We must learn to say the words properly.

Sometimes, when I was still a teacher in my country, young people had read the sacred Scriptures. And they read them as one reads the text of a poem one has not understood. Naturally, to learn to say words correctly one must first understand the text with its drama, with its immediacy. It is the same for the Preface and for the Eucharistic Prayer.

It is difficult for the faithful to follow a text as long as our Eucharistic Prayer. For this reason these new "inventions" are constantly cropping up. However, with constantly new Eucharistic Prayers one does not solve the problem. The problem is that this is a moment that also invites others to silence with God and to pray with God. Therefore, things can only go better if the Eucharistic Prayer is said well and with the correct pauses for silence, if it is said with interiority but also with the art of speaking.

It follows that the recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer requires a moment of special attention if it is to be spoken in such a way that it involves others. I believe we should also find opportunities in catechesis, in homilies and in other circumstances to explain this Eucharistic Prayer well to the People of God so that they can follow the important moments -- the account and the words of the Institution, the prayer for the living and the dead, the thanksgiving to the Lord and the epiclesis -- if the community is truly to be involved in this prayer.

Thus, the words must be pronounced properly. There must then be an adequate preparation. Altar servers must know what to do; lectors must be truly experienced speakers. Then the choir, the singing, should be rehearsed: And let the altar be properly decorated. All this, even if it is a matter of many practical things, is part of the "ars celebrandi."

But to conclude, the fundamental element is this art of entering into communion with the Lord, which we prepare for as priests throughout our lives.

We few, we happy few



REACTION TO EXCOMMUNICATION
Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, center, speaks at a press conference in Washington Sept. 27 with the four prelates he recently ordained without papal approval. The Vatican said that all the prelates have incurred automatic excommunication. From left, Archbishop Patrick E. Trujillo, Bishop Peter Paul Brennan, Bishop Joseph J. Gouthro and Bishop George A. Stallings, Jr. stand with Archbishop Milingo as he answers questions from reporters. (CNS/Paul Haring)

~from Catholic News Service

Cardinal Pell sees "muddle" in young Catholics' approach to faith

Sep. 27 (CWNews.com) - Young Catholics in Australia are badly confused about their faith, Sydney's Cardinal George Pell told the National Catholic Education Commission in a September 28 address.

"Too many young Catholics have been led by the pressures of contemporary propaganda," the cardinal said. He warned that Australian culture is currently seeing a decline in religious faith that he characterized as a "slippage, with Catholics slipping faster."

Cardinal Pell cited survey data that show young Catholics adopting a skeptical approach to all religious beliefs. He called attention particularly to survey questions showing that 75% of young Catholics think it is proper to "pick and choose beliefs," while only 10% accept the notion that "only one religion is true." The overall impression left by the studies, the cardinal said, is that the beliefs of young Australian Catholics have gone "beyond tolerance and ecumenism and toward muddle."

Cardinal Pell told his audience that his concern was not a matter of "a few isolated points of heresy." More disturbing, he said, was the prevailing confusion about the nature of religious doctrine. Younger Catholics, he said, appear to approach Church teachings as a "smorgasbord of options from which they choose items that best suit their passing fancies."

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions, martyrs

Lawrence Ruiz is the first Filipino to be canonized a saint. He and 15 others were martyred at Nagasaki, Japan in 1637. The group included two consecrated women, two other laymen, two brothers and nine priests.
Lawrence was born in Manila in the Philippines; his father was Chinese and his mother Filipino. He became associated with the Dominicans, and was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. These Dominicans taught him Spanish, and from his parents he learned Chinese and Tagalog. He became a professional calligrapher and transcribed documents.

He married and had three children. In 1636, he fled the Philippines after being accused of murder. He joined a missionary group headed for Japan, where Catholics were being persecuted. It was soon found out that the members of this group were Catholic, so they were arrested and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured for several days, first crushed while hanging upside down for three days, then the bodies were burned, with the ashes thrown into the Pacific Ocean on September 30, 1637. Pope John Paul II canonized these martyres on October 18, 1987.

St. Wenceslaus


St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, was born about the year 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was young, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his pagan mother. Wenceslaus was educated by his grandmother, Ludmilla, also a saint. She taught him to be a Christian and to be a good king. She was killed by pagan nobles before she saw him king, but she left him with a deep committment to the Christian faith.

Throughout his life he preserved his virginity unblemished. As duke he was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. On his own shoulders he frequently carried wood to the houses of the needy. He often attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy; with his own hands he sowed the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints.

Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia.

His brother Boleslaus, however, turned to paganism. One day he invited Wenceslaus to his house for a banquet. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus struck him down at the door of the church. Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Although he was killed for political reasons, he is listed as a martyr since the dispute arose over his faith. This king, martyred at the age of twenty-two, is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.

~from Catholic Culture

In Good Pastures I Shall Feed My Sheep


~by St. Augustine

I shall lead them forth from the Gentiles, and I shall gather them from foreign lands; I shall bring them into their own land, and I shall feed thme on the mountains of Israel. It was God who brought forth the mountains of Israel, that is to say, the authors of the divine Scriptures. Feed there that you may feed in safety. Whatever you hear from that source, you should savor. Whatever is foreign to it, reject. Hear the voice of the shepherd, lest you wander about in the mist. Gather at the mountains of holy Scripture. There, are the things that will delight your hearts; there, you will find nothing poisonous, nothing hostile; there the pastures are most plentiful. There, you will be healthy sheep; you will feed safely on the mountain of Israel.

And I shall feed them in streams and in every inhabited place in the land. From the mountains which we have shown you, there have issued the streams of the gospel message because their voice has gone forth into the whole world, and every habitable place has become pleasant and fertile for the grazing sheep.

In good pastures and on the high mountains of Israel, I shall feed them. And their grazing ground shall be there, that is, the place where they will rest, where they will say: "I am happy"; where they will say: "It is true, it is clear, we are not deceived." They will find rest in the glory of God, when they find rest in those grazing grounds. And they will sleep, that is, find rest, and they will rest in good pleasures.

And they will be fed in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I have already spoken of the mountains of Israel, the good mountains to which we raise our eyes and from which may come our help. But or help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Let us not then place our hope in the good mountains themselves, but let us rely on his word which says: I will feed my sheep on the mountains of Israel. Let us not merely remain on the mountains themselves, for he added immediately: I will feed my sheep. Raise your eyes, therefore, to the mountains, whence your help comes; but take note that he says: I will feed. For your help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He concludes by saying: And I will feed them with judgment. Observe that he alone so feeds his sheep, in feeding them with judgment. For what man can judge rightly concerning another? Our whole daily life is filled with rash judgments. He of whom we had despaired is converted suddenly and becomes very good. He from whom we had anticipated a great deal suddenly fails and becomes very bad. Neither our fear nor our hope is certain.

What any man is today, that man himself scarcely knows. Still in some way he does know what he is today. What he will be tomorrow, however, he does not know. Hence the Lord, who assigns to each what is owed to him, feeds his sheep with judgment, giving some things to one group, other things to another, and to each his due. For he knows what he is doing. With judgment he feeds those whom he, being judged himself, redeemed. Therefore, he himself feeds his sheep with judgment.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

St. Louis priest with disability opposes stem-cell initiative

St. Louis, Sep. 27, 2006 (CNA) - A proposed ballot measure that would constitutionally protect human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research in Missouri is facing opposition from pro-life groups and individuals including a young priest who opposes the practices even in the face of claims that his paralyzing injury could be healed through the research.

Fr. Michael Esswein of the Diocese of St. Louis who has lived with a spinal cord injury for the last 14 years is one of those people whom embryonic stem-cell researchers say will be eventually helped by the controversial technique. To date, very little progress has been made with this method toward any cures.

But, even if progress was made, Fr. Esswein says the destruction of human life wouldn’t be worth it to him. "I wouldn’t want to benefit from that kind of [embryonic stem-cell] research," the priest told the newspaper. Fr. Esswein said he is open to receiving therapies or a cure from alternative sources that don’t involve the destruction of human life, reported the diocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review.

The Catholic Church has rejected embryonic stem-cell research because it involves the intentional creation and destruction of human life to obtain the needed cells. The Church supports an alternative and harmless method of research using adult stem cells.

Fr. Esswein, associate pastor at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood, has delivered homilies to his parishioners against embryonic stem-cell research and pointing out the successes of adult stem-cell research. He delivered a similar homily at St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville, the Review said.

The priest was in a car accident with his family 14 years ago when he suffered the spinal cord injury and a broken neck. He was diagnosed with quadriplegia. He has some use of his arms and hands, and he can use a manual wheelchair. His fingers and the back of his arms are paralyzed.

Father Esswein also said he has mentioned the false promises for cures made by proponents of the Missouri ballot initiative.

"There really isn’t a cure right around the corner," he told the newspaper. "We just seem to ignore the advances in adult stem-cell research — and in particular, the possibilities with (umbilical) cord blood cells. There’s an ample supply of that every day when children are born."

The priest, ordained in 1998, said he believes all citizens should vote on the Nov. 7 ballot initiative.

"We’re talking about an amendment to the Constitution," he stated. "It’s pretty final."

Rapping priest releases new CD, says genre speaks to young people

~via Catholic News Service

He's at it again. Father Stan Fortuna, the Franciscan Friar of the Renewal who is known as the "rapping priest," has released his latest CD in the genre.

Eighteen songs, ranging from old-school rap to world beats, make up the new release, which completes the series of rap albums he has released over the past few years.

"Sacro Song 3: The Completion of the Trilogy" deals with a range of topics, from the negative effects visited on fatherless children in "Daddy Wound," and the grip of the culture of death in "Hangin' in There," to a message of peace in "Peace Shout Out," and a tribute to his beloved role model, the late Pope John Paul II, in "I'm Loving You," "The Great One" and "KW."

Throughout the album, the doctrines of the Catholic Church are a consistent thread.

"I continue to do rap music because it's a genre that makes the message intelligible to many young people," Father Stan said in an interview with The Catholic Standard & Times, newspaper of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. "And it even challenges people who don't like the genre, because the rap music affords the message to transcend boundaries and make an impact on the culture."

The new album includes the aspiring young rappers Sean Santiago, youth director of the South Bronx Youth Cultural Center in New York founded by Father Stan, and Glenda Mortoral, who is a member of the center. Their song, "Ima Do Me," deals with their experiences growing up in the inner city of the South Bronx.

The album also features the rap artist Righteous B in "Jesus Talks," and the lyrical prose of Brother Agostino Torres, also a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, in "Mezcia."

"I didn't go into working on this CD saying, 'Here is what I need to touch upon.' It was very spontaneous," Father Stan said.

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At the risk of being accused of being a fuddy-duddy, why do we have to stoop to using this execrable medium? Don't give me the excuse that it's a medium that makes the gospel "intelligible" to young people. My, how far we've fallen to say this. It's called "dumbing down".

General Audience: For St. Thomas, wounds hold qualifying sign of Christ's identity



~via Asia News

...Benedict XVI today resumed his catechesis on the personalities of the apostles, dedicating today’s to the apostle Thomas (known as “Didimo”, that is, twin).

He is famous for his stipulation – after the resurrection of the Lord –that he would believe in Jesus’ resurrection only if he could put “my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side” (cfr Jn 20:25). The pope said: “From these words, emerges the conviction that Jesus is now recognizable not so much from his face as much as his wounds. Thomas holds the wounds to be the qualifying signs of Jesus’ identity, which reveal the point to which He loved us. In this, the Apostle is not mistaken.” The pontiff recalled that the demand to “see” and “touch” the wounds of the risen lord were satisfied by Jesus, who however reminded him that “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.” And here Benedict XVI paved the way for believers and non believers who seek confirmation or verification of the Christian faith: “The case of the apostle Thomas is important for us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurities; secondly, because doubt can lead to an enlightened outcome beyond all uncertainty, and finally, because the words spoken by Jesus remind us of the true meaning of mature faith, encouraging us to persevere, despite the difficulties, in our walk of devotion to Him.”

The catechesis about the personalities of the apostles serves not only to understand the history of the Church but also to grasp the present “what it means to follow Jesus”, as the pope himself explained at the start of the cycle. Thus, from the resolve expressed by Thomas in the words spoken before the Passion of Jesus, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (Jn 11:16), the pope said: “His determination to follow the Teacher is truly exemplary and offers us a precious teaching: it reveals total availability to belong to Jesus, to the point of identifying one’s fate with His, to want to share with Him the supreme trial of death. In effect, the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus. On the other hand, when the Gospels use the word ‘follow’, it means that where He goes, there his disciple should go too. In this way, Christian life is described as a life with Jesus Christ, one spent together with Him. St Paul wrote something similar when he reassured the Christians of Corinth: “You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together” (2 Cor 7:3). That which transpires between the Apostle and his Christians should, of course, be valid first of all for the relationship between Christians and Jesus himself.”

The pope also recalled the episode when Thomas, during the Last Supper, made it clear he did not understand the words of Jesus, asking him: ‘Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ (Jn 14:5). The pope said: “In reality, saying these words, he reveals quite a low level of understanding, but what he says gives Jesus the opportunity to make the celebrated response: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn 14:6). So it is primarily to Thomas that this revelation is made, but it counts for all of us. Every time we hear or read these words, our thoughts can go to the side of Thomas, to imagine that the Lord is talking to us as he talked to him. At the same time, his question confers upon us too the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations.” And spontaneously, he added: “Often we also say: I don’t understand you Lord, help me to understand. In this way, we express the poverty of our capacity to understand and at the same time, we adopt the confident attitude of one who expects light and strength from he who is able to give it.”

Finally, the pope recalled that, according to ancient tradition, Thomas evangelized Syria and Persia, reaching western India, from where Christianity later reached southern India too. In this missionary perspective,” concluded the pope, “we end our reflection, expressing hope that the example of Thomas will increasingly invigorate our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.”

Charges that the bodies of three Catholics executed in Indonesia show signs of violence

~via Asia News

The three Catholics executed Friday of last week in Palu (Central Sulawesi) for their involvement in the 2000 Poso sectarian clashes are not yet at rest. The trio’s relatives and attorneys have called for a second autopsy to determine whether Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu were victims of ‘violence’ right before or after their execution. Police and judicial authorities have denied any kind of abuse.

The group of lawyers who defended the three Catholics has filed a complaint saying that the bodies show signs that cannot have been cause by the execution by firing squad. Tibo’s body apparently has three broken ribs, whilst da Silva seems to have been stabbed at the heart with a sharp instrument. All three appear to have been shot five times at the chest rather than once.

The families have asked the Prosecutor’s Office and the police to have another autopsy performed. This will require exhuming Tibo’s and Riwu’s bodies which were buried in Beteleme and Morowali (Central Sulawesi) respectively. Da Silva’s body will have to be exhumed for a second time from its final resting place on Flores Island since the authorities had buried him a first time on Sunday in Palu, but were finally persuaded to hand his remains over to the family after the United Nations Commission of Human Rights and the European Union intervened.

According to the findings of Christian doctors who examined the bodies, all three men had five bullet entry marks on the left side of their chest. Tibo also had two broken ribs and scratch marks on the face, whilst Riwu’s heart had been pierced by a dagger-like sharp object.

The decision by the Prosecutor’s Office in Palu to quickly bury the three dead men without the benefits of religious funeral appears to give credence to the theory that the execution failed to meet legal standards.

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St Vincent de Paul, priest


St. Vincent was born of poor parents in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, about 1580. He enjoyed his first schooling under the Franciscan Fathers at Acqs. Such had been his progress in four years that a gentleman chose him as subpreceptor to his children, and he was thus enabled to continue his studies without being a burden to his parents. In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for theological studies, and there he was ordained priest in 1600.

In 1605, on a voyage by sea from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell into the hands of African pirates and was carried as a slave to Tunis. His captivity lasted about two years, until Divine Providence enabled him to effect his escape. After a brief visit to Rome he returned to France, where he became preceptor in the family of Emmanuel de Gondy, Count of Goigny, and General of the galleys of France. In 1617, he began to preach missions, and in 1625, he lay the foundations of a congregation which afterward became the Congregation of the Mission or Lazarists, so named on account of the Prioryof St. Lazarus, which the Fathers began to occupy in 1633.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of this servant of God. Charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age. The Sisters of Charity also owe the foundation of their congregation to St. Vincent. In the midst of the most distracting occupations his soul was always intimately united with God. Though honored by the great ones of the world, he remained deeply rooted in humility. The Apostle of Charity, the immortal Vincent de Paul, breathed his last in Paris at the age of eighty. His feast day is September 27th. He is the patron of charitable societies.

~from Catholics Online

Serving the poor is to be preferred above all things

~by St. Vincent de Paul

Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.

Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.

Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.

It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Milingo excommunicated

VATICAN CITY, SEP 26, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released a communique concerning the present ecclesial position of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. The text of the communique is given below:

"With great concern, the Holy See has followed the recent activities of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, emeritus of Lusaka, Zambia, with his new association of married priests, spreading division and confusion among the faithful.

"Church representatives of various levels have tried in vain to contact Archbishop Milingo in order to dissuade him from persisting in actions that provoke scandal, especially among the faithful who followed his pastoral ministry in favor of the poor and the sick.

"Bearing in mind the understanding shown, also recently, by Peter's Successor towards this aged pastor of the Church, the Holy See has awaited with vigilant patience the evolution of events which, unfortunately, have led Archbishop Milingo to a position of irregularity and of progressively open rupture of communion with the Church, first with his attempted marriage and then with the ordination of four bishops on Sunday, September 24, in Washington D.C., U.S.A.

"For this public act both Archbishop Milingo and the four ordinands have incurred excommunication 'latae sententiae,' as laid down in Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. Moreover, the Church does not recognize, nor does she intend to recognize in the future, these ordinations and all ordinations deriving from them; and she considers the canonical status of the four supposed-bishops as being that they held prior to this ordination.

The Apostolic See, attentive to the unity and peace of the flock of Christ, had hoped that the fraternal influence of people close to Archbishop Milingo would cause him to rethink and return to full communion with the Pope. Unfortunately the latest developments have made these hopes more unlikely.

"At times of ecclesial suffering such as these, may prayers intensify among all the community of the faithful."

Pope seeking invitation to speak at Egyptian university?

Cairo, Sep. 25 (CWNews.com) - Vatican officials have approached the administrators of Egypt's leading Islamic institution, seeking an opportunity for Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) to deliver a speech there, according to reports from the Egyptian government's news agency.

A delegation of Church officials led by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald-- the former president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, who is now assigned as apostolic nuncio in Cairo-- met with Egyptian officials on September 23, to ask whether the Pope could speak at Al-Azhar University, a school founded in 970 and regarded as the most important academic institution in the world of Sunni Islam. Pope John Paul II (bio - news) visited the Al-Azhar University in February 2000, at the invitation of the institution's leader, Sheikh Sayed Tantawi.

Egyptian officials indicated that it was unlikely the Islamic school would issue an invitation to Pope Benedict. Professors at Al-Azhar were vocal in their public criticism of the Pontiff's speech in Regensburg. And Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, the religious-affairs minister of the Egyptian government, reportedly lodged a fresh protest when he met with Vatican officials. Zaqzouq indicated that Egyptian Muslims are still upset about a private meeting between the Pope and Oriana Fallaci, the late Italian journalist and critique of Islam, in August 2005.

4 to be canonized, 3 beatified in October

Sep. 25 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican's office of liturgical celebrations has released a schedule of major ceremonies for the month of October. The calendar lists only two public liturgical celebrations for Pope Benedict XVI, as well as three beatifications at which other prelates will preside.

On October 15, the Pope will preside at the canonization of four new saints: Rafael Guizar Valencia (1878- 1938), a Mexican priest and great-uncle of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ; Filippo Smaldone (1848-1923), an Italian priest; Rosa Venerini (1656- 1728), an Italian nun; and Theodora Guérin (1798- 1858), the French-born founder of the American order of Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods. This will be the second canonization ceremony of this pontificate.

On October 19, the Pope will celebrate Mass in the Bentegodi Stadium in Verona, Italy, for the participants in Italy's 4th National Ecclesial Congress.

The beatifications scheduled for October are for:


  • Maria Teresa di Gesu (1825- 1889), born Maria Scrilli, the Italian founder of the Sisters of Our Lady of Carmel, with ceremonies to be held in Fiesole, Italy, on October 8;
  • Margariat Maria Lopez de Maturana (1884- 1934), the Spanish founder of the Missionary Sisters of Mercy, with ceremonies on October 22 in Bilbao, Spain; and
  • Paul Josef Nardini (1821- 1862), a German diocesan priest, with ceremonies
    in Speyer, Germany on October 29.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian, martyrs


This is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, and these two martyrs have been honored in the East and West in many ways, including the building of churches in their honor in Rome and Constantinople. Along with St. Luke, they are the patron saints of doctors. Little is known of their true history, but the legend that has come down to us is of very early origin.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they practiced medicine gratis. According to the legend, they were twin brothers, born in Arabia, who studied in Syria and became skilled physicians. They were supposed to have lived on the Bay of Alexandretta in Cilicia, in what is now Turkey.

Since they were prominent Christians, they were among the first arrested when the great persecution under Diocletian began. Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, ordered their arrest, and they were beheaded. Their bodies, it was said, were carried to Syria and buried at Cyrrhus.

What is certain is that they were venerated very early and became patrons of medicine, known for their miracles of healing. The Emperor Justinian was cured by their intercession and paid special honor to the city of Cyrrhus where their relics were enshrined. Their basilica in Rome, adorned with lovely mosaics, was dedicated in the year 530. They are named in the Roman Martyrology and in the Canon of the Mass, testifying to the antiquity of their feast day.

The great honor in which they are held and the antiquity of their veneration indicate some historical memory among the early Christians who came out of the great persecutions with a new cult of Christian heroes. Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine without fee, they also symbolized God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition.

~from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens

The martyrs' deaths are made precious by the death of Christ


~by St. Augustine

Through such glorious deeds of the holy martyrs, with which the Church blossoms everywhere, we prove with our own eyes how true it is, as we have just been singing, that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints; seeing that it is precious both in our sight and in the sight of him for the sake of whose name it was undertaken. But the price of these deaths is the death of one man. How many deaths were bought with one dying man, who was the grain of wheat that would not have been multiplied if he had not died! You have heard his words when he was drawing near to our passion, that is, when he was drawing near to our redemption: Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

On the cross, you see, Christ transacted a grand exchange; it was there that the purse containing our price was untied; when his side was laid open by the lance of the executioner, there poured out from it the price of the whole wide world. The faithful were bought, and the martyrs; but the faith of the martyrs has been proved, and their blood is the witness to it. The martyrs have paid back what was spent for them, and they have fulfilled what Saint John says: Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too should lay down our lives for the brethren. And in another place it says, You have sat down at a great table; consider carefully what is set before you, since you ought to prepare the same kind of thing yourself. It is certainly a great table, where the Lord of the table is himself the banquet. No-one feeds his guests on himself; that is what the Lord Christ did, being himself the host, himself the food and drink. Therefore the martyrs recognised what they ate and drank, so that they could give back the same kind of thing.

But from where could they give back the same kind of thing, if the one who made the first payment had not given them the means of giving something back? What shall I pay back to the Lord for all the things he has paid back to me? I will receive the cup of salvation. What is this cup? The bitter but salutary cup of suffering, the cup which the invalid would fear to touch if the doctor did not drink it first. That is what this cup is; we can recognise this cup on the lips of Christ, when he says, Father, if it can be so, let this cup pass from me. It is about this cup that the martyrs said, I will receive the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.

So are you not afraid of failing at this point? No? Why not? Because I will call upon the name of the Lord. How could the martyrs ever conquer, unless that one conquered in them who said Rejoice, since I have conquered the world? The emperor of the heavens was governing their minds and tongues, and through them overcoming the devil on earth and crowning the martyrs in heaven. O, how blessed are those who drank this cup thus! They have finished with suffering and have received honour instead.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Islamic envoys pleased with meeting

Sep. 25 (CWNews.com) - After an extraordinary audience with Pope Benedict XVI on September 25, ambassadors from Islamic countries said that they were pleased with the results.

Iran's ambassador to the Holy See described the meeting as "fruitful." The Iraqi envoy added that the Pope had earned warm applause from all the representatives of Islamic countries assembled at Castel Gandolfo. And Kouamé Benjamin Konan, the ambassador from Ivory Coast, said that the meeting should "definitively" bring an end to complaints that Pope Benedict is hostile to Islam.

Why am I skeptical?

Former Spanish President says double standard exits between Islam and the West

~via Catholic News Agency

Washington DC, Sep. 25, 2006 (CNA) - The former president of Spain, José María Aznar, noted that the controversy over the words of Pope Benedict XVI at Ratisbona make clear a double standard in relations between Islam and the West. Speaking at a Washington think tank, Aznar asked why no Muslims have apologized for the 800 year Moorish invasion of his country.

Speaking at a weekend conference at the Hudson Institute, Aznar asked, “What is the reason ... we, the West, always should be apologiz(ing) and they never should ... apologize? It's absurd! They occupied Spain for eight centuries!”

Aznar also said that the Western world is in serious trouble when it comes to relations with the Islamic world, and not just because of radical Islamic terrorists. The former president said that poor leadership in the West has led to a sense that Western values are indefensible. “I can put on the table the names of various Western leaders who don’t believe in the West,” he said.

Aznar said dialogue is impossible unless the West knows itself and called “stupidity” the “Alliance of Civilizations” promoted by the current government of Spain.

“Dialogue, he said is indispensable…but an ‘alliance of civilizations’ is another thing.”

“How (does he) mean (to create) the Alliance of Civilizations,” Aznar asked. Does he mean that “the European Union or the United States should be in alliance, for example, with the (Iranian) ayatollah’s regime?” How is an alliance possible, he asked, “when we defend the rights of men and women and the Muslim world defends the contrary,” he asked.

A radical Islam, he continued, which “is set on a world agenda,” and which has no desire to dialogue cannot be dialogued with.

“The best alliance for us,” he concluded, “is the Atlantic alliance.” And only after strengthening their resolve can the west enter into productive dialogue.

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How do you solve a problem like Milingo?


~Dom reports:
Any question as to whether Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has been excommunicated has been settled because this past weekend he ordained four married men as Catholic bishops. While the Archdiocese of Washington tries to wish this away by saying, “This means nothing within the church,” according to spokesman Susan Gibbs, the fact is that these are valid, if illicit, ordinations. (Unlike the women who attempted ordination as priests this past summer; those were clearly invalid and illicit.)

It’s amusing that one of the four is George Stallings, a schismatic Catholic priest who was calling himself archbishop before. Apparently Milingo’s ordination of him as bishop is a demotion. All five of them claim affiliation with the schismatic Old Catholic Churches.

What’s not amusing is that these five men are now officially excommunicated, if they had not been before, according to Ed Peters. Make no mistake that this is a very serious matter that can and probably will lead many well-meaning Catholics into schism.
Tim, a regular reader of Fr. Z's blog, has written a song to the tune of "How do you solve a problem like Maria" from the Sound of Music.
Many a thing you know you’d like to tell him:
Celibacy’s not just a papal whim
So how do you make him stay
And shut up for just one day?
How do you keep a crosier from his hand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Milingo?
How do you keep a Moonie’s feet on land?

Pope Benedict's address to Muslim community

~from Vatican Daily Bulletin

Dear Cardinal Poupard,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Muslim Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you to this gathering that I wanted to arrange in order to strengthen the bonds of friendship and solidarity between the Holy See and Muslim communities throughout the world. I thank Cardinal Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, for the words that he has just addressed to me, and I thank all of you for responding to my invitation.

The circumstances which have given rise to our gathering are well known. I have already had occasion to dwell upon them in the course of the past week. In this particular context, I should like to reiterate today all the esteem and the profound respect that I have for Muslim believers, calling to mind the words of the Second Vatican Council which for the Catholic Church are the Magna Carta of Muslim-Christian dialogue: "The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God" (Declaration Nostra Aetate, 3). Placing myself firmly within this perspective, I have had occasion, since the very beginning of my pontificate, to express my wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians (cf. Address to the Delegates of Other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of Other Religious Traditions, 25 April 2005). As I underlined at Cologne last year, "Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Meeting with Representatives of Some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). In a world marked by relativism and too often excluding the transcendence and universality of reason, we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together. Continuing, then, the work undertaken by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, I sincerely pray that the relations of trust which have developed between Christians and Muslims over several years, will not only continue, but will develop further in a spirit of sincere and respectful dialogue, based on ever more authentic reciprocal knowledge which, with joy, recognizes the religious values that we have in common and, with loyalty, respects the differences.

Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is a necessity for building together this world of peace and fraternity ardently desired by all people of good will. In this area, our contemporaries expect from us an eloquent witness to show all people the value of the religious dimension of life. Likewise, faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence; as for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction. Indeed, "although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people" (Declaration, Nostra Aetate, 3). The lessons of the past must therefore help us to seek paths of reconciliation, in order to live with respect for the identity and freedom of each individual, with a view to fruitful co-operation in the service of all humanity. As Pope John Paul II said in his memorable speech to young people at Casablanca in Morocco, "Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom. They favour peace and agreement between peoples" (no. 5).

Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that in the current world situation it is imperative that Christians and Muslims engage with one another in order to address the numerous challenges that present themselves to humanity, especially those concerning the defence and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights ensuing from that dignity. When threats mount up against people and against peace, by recognizing the central character of the human person and by working with perseverance to see that human life is always respected, Christians and Muslims manifest their obedience to the Creator, who wishes all people to live in the dignity that he has bestowed upon them.

Dear friends, I pray with my whole heart that the merciful God will guide our steps along the paths of an ever more authentic mutual understanding. At this time when for Muslims the spiritual journey of the month of Ramadan is beginning, I address to all of them my cordial good wishes, praying that the Almighty may grant them serene and peaceful lives. May the God of peace fill you with the abundance of his Blessings, together with the communities that you represent!

Manila: Muslim MP urges understanding, not criticism, of pope

Manila (AsiaNews) – A Filipino woman MP of Muslim faith has urged “all believers of Islam, not only of my country but of the whole world, to accept the explanations of Benedict XVI about his address in Regensburg, thus starting Ramadan with sentiments of peace and hope.”

Faysah RPM Dumarpa appealed to the Philippines’ 10 million Muslims “to completely understand what Pope Benedict meant instead of reacting violently to it.” She continued: "As we Muslims observe Ramadhan, let us embark on this holy month of reflection, purification and abstinence with prayers for peace, not only in our country, but all throughout the world.”

According to Dumarpa, who was elected in the district of Lanao del Sur, the pope’s sincerity regarding the quotation of a medieval text “should be acknowledged by Muslim communities”.

The MP said “we should acknowledge the fact that no pope in the history of Christianity has ever aired regrets for his actions. It is my hope that the sincere gesture of Benedict XVI would be able to placate the wounded feelings of our fellow Muslims.”

She continued: “The observance of the fasting season among Muslims gives them the opportunity to relate to Allah and fellow human beings in a stage of humility, courtesy and piety. I enjoin Muslims to show that our faith has nothing to do with terrorism, but rather that it is about compassion and understanding.”

Radical Muslims against pope: two churches attacked in Mosul and Baghdad

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The start of the month of Ramadan in Iraq was marked by violence but also by significant openness by al Sistani towards the Vatican. Yesterday, two churches, one in Baghdad and another in Mosul, were struck. Recently, the country has seen an escalation of attacks against Christians, thought by some to be the reaction of radical Muslims to the speech of the pope in Regensburg. However, religious leaders, among them al Sistani, have shown solidarity and understanding towards the Vatican. Moreover, the representative of the highest religious exponent of Iraqi Shiites has expressed the desire to be able to visit the Pope.

Yesterday morning at 11.15am local time, armed men attacked the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, firing at least 80 shots on the building. “Thank God there was no Mass at the time,” one member of the community told AsiaNews, “so no one was killed or injured, there was just some damage done to the eastern part of the building and a few broken windows.”

The atmosphere in the city is very tense. Recently, Muslim militias threatened the Catholic bishop and priests that unless they publicly condemned the address of the pope at the University of Regensburg within 72 hours, Christians would be killed and churches burned down. In recent years, some churches, shrines and even the bishop’s house were the target of terrorist attacks. For fear of further attacks, the bishop had posters put up to say that “neither Iraqi Christians nor the pope want to destroy ties with Muslims”.

Defying the prevailing atmosphere of terror, last night, Chaldean Catholics left their homes to participate in Vespers Mass in the very church that had been attacked. “Our faith is a challenge to violence. The militias fear us because our faith is stronger than their bullets,” a Christian told AsiaNews.

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Insist upon the message, whether it be welcome or not

~by St. Augustine

The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “ Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying”, he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray”, he says: “I wish to be lost”.

So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this”. For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.

I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost. If you do not want me to suffer, do not stray, do not become lost. It is enough that I lament your straying and loss. No, I fear that in neglecting you, I shall also kill what is strong. Consider the passage that follows: And what was strong you have destroyed. Should I neglect the straying and lost, the strong one will also take delight in straying and in being lost.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Angelus: Sr Leonella Sgorbati, an authentic Christian witness



~via Asia News

The “logic of Christianity”, that is, the giving of self to others, at times to the point of sacrificing one’s life, is testified to around the world by many Christians who “lay down their lives for others because of Jesus Christ, working concretely as servants of love and thus as ‘artisans’ of peace”, just as Sr Leonella Sgorbati did. The example of the missionary killed in Somalia was upheld today by Benedict XVI before 3,000 people in the internal courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

Addressing the small festive crowd that applauded him warmly and vigorously called out his name, Benedict XVI made no other reference to a meeting set for tomorrow at Castel Gandolfo, with ambassadors of Muslim majority counties accredited to the Vatican and some Muslim religious leaders. Turning to today’s Gospel, Benedict XVI talked instead about the “logic of Christianity, which responds to the truth of man created in the image of God, but at the same time counters his egotism, a consequence of original sin. Each and every human being is drawn by love – that is ultimately God himself – but often makes mistakes in concrete ways of loving, and thus from a tendency with positive roots but often contaminated by sin, bad intentions and actions can emerge.”

Referring to the testimony of “peace artisans”, he said: “At times, some people are asked for the supreme witness of their blood, as happened a few days ago with the Italian religious, Sr Leonella Sgorbati, who was a victim of violence. This sister, who for many years served the poor and little ones in Somalia, died uttering the word ‘forgiveness’: here we have the most authentic Christian witness, a pacific sign of contradiction that reveals the victory of love over hatred and evil. There is no doubt that following Christ is difficult, but, as He said, only those who lose their life for his sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it (Mk 8:35), giving full meaning to their existence. There is no other way to be his disciples; there is other path to testifying to his love and aiming for gospel perfection. Mary helps us, who we invoke today as the Blessed Virgin of Mercede, to open our hearts always to the love of God, mystery of joy and holiness.”

After the recital of the Marian prayer, the pope recalled the upcoming celebration of World Maritime Day. He said in English: “I would like to invite all of you to pray for the men and women involved in seafaring, and for their families. I thank the Lord for the work of the Apostleship of the Sea, which for many years has offered human and spiritual support to those who live this difficult and challenging way of life.” The pope then applauded recent initiatives taken by the International Maritime Organization to contribute to the fight against poverty and hunger.

Father Cantalamessa: Whoever Is Great in Service, Is Great

~from Zenit

"And he sat down and called the Twelve; and he said to them, 'If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.'" Does Jesus condemn with these words the desire to excel, to do great things in life, to give the best of oneself, and favors instead laziness, a defeatist spirit and the negligent?

So thought the philosopher Nietzsche, who felt the need to combat Christianity fiercely, guilty in his opinion of having introduced into the world the "cancer" of humility and self-denial. In his work "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" he opposes this evangelical value with the "will to power," embodied by the superman, the man of "great health," who wishes to raise, not abase, himself.

It might be that Christians sometimes have misinterpreted Jesus' thought and have given occasion to this misunderstanding. But this is surely not what the Gospel wishes to tell us. "If any would be first": therefore, it is possible to want to be first, it is not prohibited, it is not a sin. With these words, not only does Jesus not prohibit the desire to be first, but he encourages it. He just reveals a new and different way to do so: not at the cost of others, but in favor of others. He adds, in fact: "he must be last of all and servant of all."

But what are the fruits of one or the other way of excelling? The will to power leads to a situation in which one imposes oneself and the rest serve; one is "happy" -- if there can be happiness in it -- and the rest unhappy; only one is victor, all the rest are vanquished; one dominates, the rest are dominated.

We know with what results the idea of the superman was implemented by Hitler. But it is not just Nazism; almost all the evils of humanity stem from that root. In the Second Reading of this Sunday, James asks himself the anguishing and perennial question: "What causes wars?" In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the answer: the desire for predominance. Predominance of one nation over another, of one race over another, of a party over the others, of one sex over the other, of one religion over another.

In service, instead, all benefit from the greatness of one. Whoever is great in service, is great and makes others great; rather than raising himself above others, he raises others with him. Alessandro Manzoni concludes his poetic evocation of Napoleon's ventures with the question: "Was it true glory? In posterity the arduous sentence." This doubt, about whether or not it was truly glory, is not posed for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Raoul Follereau and all those who daily serve the cause of the poor and those wounded by wars, often risking their own lives.

Only one doubt remains. What to think of antagonism in sports and competition in business? Are these things also condemned by Christ's words? No, when they are contained within the limits of good sportsmanship and good business, these things are good, they serve to increase the level of physical capability and ... to lower prices in trade. Indirectly, they serve the common good. Jesus' invitation to be the last certainly doesn't apply to cycling or Formula 1 races!

But precisely, sport serves to clarify the limit of this greatness in relation to service. "In a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize," says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:24). Suffice it to remember what happens at the end of a 100-meter flat race: The winner exults, is surrounded by photographers and carried triumphantly in the air. All the rest go away sad and humiliated. "All run, but only one receives the prize."

St. Paul extracts, however, from athletic competitions also a positive teaching: "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable [crown, eternal life, from God]." A green light, therefore, to the new race invented by Christ in which the first is the one who makes himself last of all and serves all.

Prayer in Preparation for Holy Communion



~A Prayer by St. Basil the Great

O Lord, I know that I am unworthy to receive thy Holy Body and Precious Blood; I know that I am guilty, and that I eat and drink condemnation to myself, not discerning the Body and Blood of Christ my God. But trusting in thy loving-kindness I come unto thee who hast said: He that eateth my Body and drinketh my Blood shall dwell in me and I in him.

Therefore, O Lord, have compassion on me and make not an example of me, thy sinful servant. But do unto me according thy great mercy, and grant that these Holy Gifts may be for me unto the healing, purification, enlightenment, protection, salvation and sanctification of my soul and body, and to the expulsion of every evil imagination, sinful deed or work of the Devil. May they move me to reliance on thee and to love thee always, to amend and keep firm my life; and be ever in me to the increase of virtue, to the keeping of the Holy Spirit, and as a good defence before thy dread Judgement Seat, and for Life Eternal. Amen.

On weak Christians



~by St. Augustine

You have failed to strengthen the weak, says the Lord. He is speaking to wicked shepherds, false shepherds, shepherds who seek their own concerns and not those of Christ. They enjoy the bounty of milk and wool, but they take no care at all of the sheep, and the make no effort to heal those who are ill. I think there is a difference between one who is weak (that is, not strong) and one who is ill, although we often say that the weak are also suffering from illness.

My brothers, when I try to make that distinction, perhaps I could do it better and with greater precision, or perhaps someone with more experience and insight could do so. But when it comes to the words of Scripture, I say what I think so that in the meantime you will not be deprived of all profit. In the case of the weak sheep, it is to be feared that the temptation, when it comes, may break him. The sick person, however, is already ill by reason of some illicit desire or other, and this is keeping him from entering God’s path and submitting to Christ’s yoke.

There are men who want to live a good life and have already decided to do so, but are not capable of bearing sufferings even though they are ready to do good. Now it is a part of the Christian’s strength not only to do good works but also to endure evil. Weak men are those who appear to be zealous in doing good works but are unwilling or unable to endure the sufferings that threaten. Lovers of the world, however, who are kept from good works by some evil desire, lie sick and listless, and it is this sickness that deprives them of any strength to accomplish good works.

The paralytic was like that. When his bearers could not bring him in to the Lord, they opened the roof and lowered him down to the feet of Christ. Perhaps you wish to do this in spirit: to open the roof and to lower a paralytic soul down to the Lord. All its limbs are lifeless, it is empty of every good work, burdened with its sins, and weak from the illness brought on by its evil desires. Since all its limbs are helpless, and the paralysis is interior, you cannot come to the physician. But perhaps the physician is himself is concealed within; for the true understanding of Scripture is hidden. Reveal therefore what is hidden, and thus you will open the roof and lower the paralytic to the feet of Christ.

As for those who fail to do this and those who are negligent, you have heard what was said to them: You have failed to heal the sick; you have failed to bind up what was broken. Of this we have already spoken. Man was broken by terrible temptations. But there is at hand a consolation that will bind what was broken: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

U.S. Catholic Seminary Probe Sent to Vatican

~AP via The Christian Post

A Vatican-ordered review of Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States has been completed and the results sent to Rome, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says.

Vatican officials sought the evaluation in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis, to look for anything that contributed to the scandal, which erupted in 2002 and battered the church.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference, said this month that the visits to the nation's seminaries and houses of formation for priests were finished July 14 and the reports were sent to the Vatican.

The agency overseeing the assessment – the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education – is reviewing the data. It was not known how much of the findings will be made public.

The bishops and seminary staff who conducted the onsite reviews gave special attention to what seminarians are taught about chastity and celibacy. The Vatican also directed the evaluators to look for "evidence of homosexuality" in the schools.

Studies commissioned by the bishops' conference have found that the majority of known victims of abuse by priests in the last 50 years were adolescent boys. In response, some Catholics have blamed gay clergy for the scandal; experts on sex offenders contend homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.

The Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document last year emphasizing church opposition to gay candidates for the priesthood, advising that men with "deep-seated" gay tendencies or who "support so-called gay culture" shouldn't be admitted to seminary or ordained.

The Wisdom of Benedict XVI

~by Laurence Murawiec in NRO

...Politics is theology diluted. The pope’s admonition to “be obedient to the truth” is the core of the civilization built by Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. His mention of the Muslim doctrinaire of “Zahirism,” Ibn Hazm of Cordova (d. 1064) who, he recalls, went so far as to state “that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry,” ought to be taken seriously — Ibn Hazm, after all, was a noted theorist of jihad.

Contrary to the naïve souls of unbounded cleverness, the pope is not trying to be nice, or to “sell” his doctrine like a Madison Avenue salesman. The dialogue he reports on takes place “in the winter barracks near Ankara.” There is a war going on. It is not a war “on terror,” it is a war on jihad and an Islam that has, for all practical purposes, throw its lot with the jihadis, or at least never clearly and practically distanced itself from jihad. The emperor wrote the dialogue “during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402.” Ideas have consequences. The denial of human reason and the denial of faith go hand in hand to promote inhumanity. The West cannot defend itself if it believes in nothing. “God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature,” Benedict XVI reminds us — but what is Al Jazeera doing when it gleefully airs mass consumption snuff movies of jihadis beheading “infidels”? Jihad is the pathology of religion just as Nazism and Bolshevism were the pathologies of reason and modernity.

The irrational nihilism of modern jihad is what produces the torrents of blood spilled by the jihadis throughout the world. “We love death more than you love life,” they proudly proclaim. In promoting a culture of life, of faith and reason, the pope is boldly taking the moral and intellectual leadership that has been sorely missing in our response to the war declared on us on September 11.

Read complete article

Europeans and Catholics Rally to Pope’s Defense

~Excerpted from The Trumpet

Anger toward Pope Benedict xvi is unifying Muslims, but a growing sense of sympathy and loyalty to the pontiff is rousing Catholics and Europeans to his defense. We have all seen the images of rage-ridden Muslims rioting in the streets, torching churches and demanding and re-demanding an apology from the pope. Largely underreported, however, is the growing number of Catholics and Europeans surging to Benedict’s defense. Islamic rage is igniting a deeper respect and loyalty among Europeans and Catholics for the Vatican.

In many ways, the consequences of the pope’s remarks on Catholic Europe are as important, if not more so, than those in the Muslim world.

...As Muslims rage, many Europeans are calmly (so far) but definitively rising to the defense of their beloved pope. In fact, Dr. Friedman reports that there are “emerging pockets of anger among Catholics over the Muslim world’s reaction to the pope …” (op. cit.). The longer Muslim rage persists, the more fiery and irritated Europeans and Catholics are becoming.

In Germany, where the pope made his remarks, the daily Die Welt said that “anger in the Islamic world about the quote used by Pope Benedict xvi is groundless because it merely expressed a ‘historically documented fact’” (bbc News, September 18). The paper condemned Muslims for exploiting the opportunity to start a clash of cultures.

Edmund Stoiber, a prominent German politician and friend of the pope, insisted that there were “no grounds for criticism” in the pope’s comments. Switzerland’s daily La Tribune de Geneve reported that “Islamists are again showing they are ‘the worst enemies of Islam’”—and, regarding the murder of the nun in Somalia, said, “If fundamentalists were trying to confirm Benedict xvi’s declarations, they could not have done better!” (bbc News, op. cit.).

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St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Francesco, named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, was born to Giuseppa and Grazio Forgione, peasant farmers, in the small Italian village of Pietrelcina on May 25, 1887. From his childhood, it was evident that he was a special child of God. Francesco was very devout even as a child, and at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood. He became a Capuchin novice at the age of sixteen and received the habit in 1902. Francesco was ordained to the priesthood in 1910 after seven years of study and became known as Padre Pio.

On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was kneeling in front of a large crucifix when he received the visible marks of the crucifixion, making him the first stigmatized priest in the history of Church. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. Upon his death in 1968, the wounds were no longer visible. In fact, there was no scaring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal. The wounds of the stigmata were not the only mystical phenomenon experienced by Padre Pio.

The blood from the stigmata had an odor described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and the gift of bilocation was attributed to him. Padre Pio had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him for confession which he heard for ten or twelve hours per day. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; he would know just the right word of counsel or encouragement that was needed. Even before his death, people spoke to Padre Pio about his possible canonization. He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was attended by about 100,000 people.

On June 16, 2002, over 500,000 Padre Pio devotees gathered in Rome to witness Pope John Paul II proclaim Padre Pio, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. The Padre Pio Foundation and many benefactors traveled to Rome, San Giovanni Rotondo, Pietrelcina, Piana Romana and many other holy places to celebrate Padre Pio's Canonization.

~from Catholic Online

St. Linus, pope and martyr

Following the crucifixion of Peter, Linus, who had served as an assistant to the apostle, continued the leadership of the Church, for once the Christian faith had been firmly established in Rome, Peter and Paul had commended Linus to this responsibility. However, because the one-man episcopate had not yet emerged in Rome, we have no way of knowing exactly what duties were expected of Linus. In a letter directed to the Oriental churches, Linus told how Peter's body was taken from the cross by Marcellus, bathed in milk and wine, and embalmed with precious spices.

Linus, believed to be the son of Herculanus, was an Italian from the region of Tuscany. He has been identified by the early writer, Eusebius, as the same Linus who is mentioned by St. Paul in his letter of salutation from Rome to Timothy in Ephesus. His episcopate is said to have been approximately twelve years. A brief respite from persecution for the brethren is said to have existed at this time, for legend has it that Nero, in a frightening vision, was so chastised by Peter that he abandoned the wrath which he had once so fiercely set upon the Christians.

Much is unknown of Linus, to be sure, but it is said that he, at Peter's direction, decreed that all women would now cover their heads when entering a church. In the ancient canon of the Mass, his name is cited after those of Peter and Paul.

According to legend, Linus was martyred and buried on the Vatican Hill alongside his beloved Peter.

~from The Popes: A Papal History, J.V. Bartlett

Offer the bandage of consolation


~by St. Augustine

Scripture says: God chastises every son whom he acknowledges. But the bad shepherd says: “Perhaps I will be exempt”. If he is exempt from the suffering of his chastisements, then he is not numbered among God’s sons. You will say: “Does God indeed punish every son?” Yes, every one, just as he chastised his only Son. His only Son, born of the substance of the Father, equal to the Father in the form of God, the Word through whom all things were made, he could not be chastised. For this reason he was clothed with flesh so that he might know chastisement. God punishes his only Son who is without sin; does he then leave unpunished an adopted son who is with sin? The Apostle says that we have been called to adoption. We have been adopted as sons, that we might be co-heirs with the only Son, and also that we might be his inheritance: Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance. Christ gave us the example by his own sufferings.

But clearly one who is weak must neither be deceived with false hope nor broken by fear. Otherwise he may fail when temptations come. Say to him: Prepare your soul for temptation. Perhaps he is starting to falter, to tremble with fear, perhaps he is unwilling to approach. You have another passage of Scripture for him: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. Make that promise while preaching about the sufferings to come, and you will strengthen the man who is weak. When someone is held back because of excessive fear, promise him God’s mercy. It is not that temptations will be lacking, but that God will not permit anyone to be tempted beyond what he can bear. In this manner you will be binding up the broken one.

When they hear of the trials that are coming, some men arm themselves more and, so to speak, are eager to drain the cup. The ordinary medicine of the faithful seems to them but a small thing; for their part they seek the glorious death of the martyrs. Others hear of the temptations to come, and when they do arrive, as arrive they must, they become broken and lame. Yet it is right that such things befall the Christian, and no one esteems them except the one who desires to be a true Christian.

Offer the bandage of consolation, bind up what has been broken. Say this: “Do not be afraid. God in whom you have believed does not abandon you in temptations. God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. It is not I who say this, but the Apostle, and he says further: Are you willing to accept his trial, the trial of Christ who speaks in me? When you hear this you are hearing it from Christ himself, you are hearing it from the shepherd who gives pasture to Israel. For of him it was said: You will give us tears to drink in measure. The Apostle says: He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. This is also what the prophet intends by adding the words: in measure. God rebukes but also encourages, he brings fear and he brings consolation, he strikes and he heals. Do not reject him”.