Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pope Benedict's "Love Letter" continues to be a bestseller

~from CNA

Its been just over a year since its release, yet Pope Benedict XVI's first Encyclical letter continues to be a best seller. According to the Rome-based ANSA news agency the Pontiff’s profound discussion of human and divine love is proving to be one of the most commercially successful doctrinal tracts ever written by a Pope.

The 72-page document, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), has been reprinted three times in the German Pope's own language, three times in Spanish and sold almost 1.5 million copies in Italian.

Its success has also meant that, for the first time in modern history, the Latin version of a papal document has had to be reprinted. The initial run of 1,000 copies sold out in two months.

"Even now, a year after its publication, we're still shifting a few copies every day in the various languages," Claudio Rossini, director of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana bookshop next to St Peter's Square told ANSA.

Some attribute the success of the Pope’s letter to the fact that it is his first, coupled with his reputation as a scholar and Theological expert. But, Prof. Ilaria Morali, who teaches dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, believes the subject matter of the encyclical has also played a role.

"Love is something that everyone is interested in. People know that here at least the subject will not be treated lightly or in a banal way," she said.

In the letter, Pope Benedict reflects upon the concepts of eros, agape, and logos - the three ancient classifications of love - and their relationship with the teachings of Jesus. The Holy Father calls all men and women to seek the divine origins of each type of love.

“I wanted here,” the Pope says in the document, “to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love.”

Ultimate Bible Quiz

~Everyone's taking this quiz today. So I decided to take it, too. Give credit to my Baptist Sunday School teachers here.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

General Audience: Holiness is in conversion and repentance

Pope Benedict acknowledges the crowd during his weekly general audience at the Vatican January 31, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)

~from Asia News

Before 6,000 people gathered in the Paul VI Hall for the general audience, the Pope today spoke of the behaviour of Saint Paul’s companions, especially Barnabas, Silvanus and Apollos, who devoted themselves to evangelisation.

Benedict XVI stressed first of all that all three were part of a wider group. “The apostle is open to collaboration; he does not try to do everything alone but relies of several helpers,” including women like Phoebe and Prisca. Among these the Pope focused on three, who played a particularly significant role in evangelisation.

The Pope said that Barnabas was one of the first Christians who dedicated himself to evangelisation in Tarsus and Antioch and almost “returned” Paul to the Church. He went on mission with the apostle for what came to be known as the first missionary trip of the apostle of the peoples.

“They were together at the so-called Council of Jerusalem, where the apostles decided to separate circumcision from the Christian identity”, thus opening the Church to the pagans.

Paul and Barnabas “quarrelled however during their second missionary trip” over which comrade to bring along.

For Benedict XVI this shows that “even among the saints there were disagreements” and this is “comforting”.

“Holiness does not come from the capacity of not making mistakes;” instead, it grows from “the capacity to convert and repent, to start all over. [. . .] The capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness makes us saints,” he repeated

Silvanus o Silas was “a Jew from Jerusalem.” Seen as a possible mediator between Jerusalem and Antioch, between Christians of Jewish origin and others, he went on mission to Corinth. Co-sender of the Letter to the Thessalonians, he is also mentioned in the first letter to Peter—“I write you this briefly through Silvanus” worked together and that the “Church is one”.

Apollos, probably Apollonius, is especially linked to the evangelisation of Ephesus and later Corinth where, according to Luke, he was very useful to those who had become believers, showing through the scriptures that Jesus was the messiah.

Apollos’ life is “problematic” because some members of the Church opposed others in his name, forcing Paul to intervene expressing appreciation for Apollos, but not for the Corinthians whom he accused of tearing the body of Christ.

Some also believe Apollos is the author of the Letter to the Hebrews.

All three have “in common their Jewish origin, their devotion to Jesus and the Gospel, and the fact that all three collaborated with the apostle Paul.”

“All three found the meaning of life in the evangelising mission” and stand before us as luminous examples.

Jesus Seminar Blog

~from Dr. Philip Blosser...a new blog, Jesus Seminar Critically Examined, dedicated "to critically examining the Jesus Seminar, including its underlying agenda and assumptions, as well the many disingenuous arguments and conclusions mounted by their adherents."


~Brilliant letter by Fr. PF to Alan Johnson who led the Cabinet revolt against exemptions for Catholic Adoption agencies from Sexual Equality Resolution.
Dear Mr Johnson

You are quoted in today’s “Independent” as saying: “We reject discrimination in all its forms.” Do you or your party intend to bring in legislation to repeal the Act of Settlement, which declares that no one can be Monarch who “professes the popish religion, or marries a papist” and, if so, when do you intend to do this?
Yours faithfully,
[Rev. PF]

Holy Whapping Television Network

~I don't watch television (we have a little one that we drag out for the Super Bowl). But this network looks promising...Holy Whapping Television

8:00 PM. The Wonderful World of Scola Presents King Solomon's Mimes. The well-known cardinal introduces this showing of the classic adventure tale of love, death, lost gold, white greasepaint and really awful experimental liturgical dance. Starring Marcel Marceau as Alan Quatermain and vice versa.
10:30 PM. The Office. Sparks fly this week as Msgr. La Fontaine hatches a sure-to-backfire plot to stop Pope Pius's latest dangerous plan to authorize the printing of the Psalms in a separate section, rather than with all the other rubrics. America just can't get enough of this new sitcom, inspired by comedic shenanighans of the the 1911-1913 commission to reform the Roman Breviary.

8:00 PM. Desperate Hapsburgs. Empress Elisabeth suffers a nervous breakdown and refuses to leave the state apartments when her hairdresser is arrested for possession of illegal narcotics, and therefore can't spend the requisite three hours on her latest 'do.
9:00 PM. The O.C. (O. Carm.) Surfing Carmelite friars cope with the labyrinthine turns of the southern Californian ecclesiastical hierarchy. Insert obvious Mahoney joke here.
10:00 PM. Father Ted. Rerun.

~More here. Don't miss the comments!

PS. I would stay up late to watch this show:

11:00 PM. Late Night Compline with George William Rutler. Tonight's hour of homiletical wit features a special appearance by Fr. Uwe-Michael Lang, promoting his new book Mass: The Worst-Case Survival Manual. Musical guest: The Tallis Scholars.

Positive notes on consecrated life

~from Zenit

Consecrated life is in a moment of enormous vitality, says a Vatican official.

The secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Archbishop Agostino Gardin, told the Spanish magazine Vida Religiosa that: "Those who speak insistently of decadence do not know consecrated life."

The archbishop, who before his appointment as secretary of the Vatican congregation was minister general of the Conventual Franciscans and president of the Union of Superiors General, highlighted the "enormous vitality" of religious life.

Consecrated life "is on the right path; better still, it has always been so," the archbishop said.

He described as "very positive" the attention that consecrated persons have given in recent years "to charisms and a return to the origins," which has them "to revise their way of being and living" their vocation.

On addressing the question of a decline in vocations, Archbishop Gardin said: "Today we are more aware that specific charisms exists, but that they are comparable, and the fact that they attract more people or less people is secondary."

He added that "religious life is called to be a qualitative life. The quantitative issue does not depend on us and must not be at the center of our concerns."

Archbishop Gardin pointed out the importance that must be given to discernment and vocational support within religious communities, since "to invite a person to share our life and then not be up to the measure of supporting the person, of helping the person to grow spiritually and to discern is, deep down, a lack of honesty."

The Church celebrates World Day of Consecrated Life Friday.

St. John Bosco, priest

John Bosco was born near Castelnuovo in the archdiocese of Turin, Italy, in 1815. His father died when John was only two years old and it was his mother Margaret who provided him with a good humanistic and Christian education. His early years were financially difficult but at the age of twenty he entered the major seminary, thanks to the financial help received from Louis Guala, founder and rector of the ecclesiastical residence St. Francis of Assisi in Turin. John Bosco was ordained a priest on June 5, 1846, and with the help of John Borel he founded the oratory of St. Francis de Sales.

At this time the city of Turin was on the threshold of the industrial revolution and as a result there were many challenges and problems, especially for young men. Gifted as he was as an educator and a leader, Don Bosco formulated a system of education based on "reason, religion and kindness." In spite of the criticism and violent attacks of the anti-clericals, he conducted workshops for the tradesmen and manual laborers, schools of arts and sciences for young workers, and schools of the liberal arts for those preparing for the priesthood. In 1868 there were 800 students involved in this educational system. To ensure the continuation of his work, Don Bosco founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians), which was approved in 1869. Also, with the help of Sister Mary Dominic Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix.

In 1875 a wave of emigration to Latin America began, and this prompted the inauguration of the Salesian missionary apostolate. Don Bosco became a traveller throughout Europe, seeking funds for the missions. Some of the reports referred to him as "the new St. Vincent de Paul." He also found time to write popular catechetical pamphlets, which were distributed throughout Italy, as was his Salesian Bulletin. This great apostle of youth died on January 31, 1888, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. Pope John Paul II named him "teacher and father to the young."

~from Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo Lodi

I have always laboured out of love

~by St. John Bosco

First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfil their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always laboured lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal. And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.

I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts. They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or wilfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalised, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.

They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.

There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.

In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

British group supports move to encourage Latin Mass

~from CWN...first the French, then the Italians, then the Poles, then the Germans, now the British.

A group of English writers and scholars has issued a statement of support for Pope Benedict’s reported plan to broaden use of the 1962 Missal.

The group’s statement recalled a similar effort by British and international figures who, in 1971, asked Pope Paul VI to preserve the traditional Catholic liturgy, saying that the old Mass was a treasure of Western culture.

Joining other groups from France, Italy, Poland, Germany, and the English-speaking countries, the English group-- brought together under the auspices of Una Voce International-- says that today “there is great hope and expectation that this treasure of civilization will be freed from its current restrictions.”

The statement is signed by 36 prominent scholars and writers, most of them English residents, including Leo Darroch, the secretary of Una Voce International; James Bogle and Jonathan Evans, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain; Fra Matthew Festing and Prince Rupert zu Loewnstein of the Knights of Malta; novelist Piers Paul Read; historian Jonathan Riley-Smith; the priest-scholars Fathers John Saward, Alcuin Reid, and Ronald Creighton-Jobe; and concert pianist Stephen Hough.

Cardinal Martini and Euthanasia: When It Is Licit to Cut Life Short

~from Chiesa by Sandro Magister (NB: the Church teaches that life is sacred from conception to natural death. This is one cardinal's opinion, a cardinal whom the press dubbed "papabile".)

Just nine months after the bombshell manifesto of opposition to the reigning pope published in the Italian weekly “L’espresso” – on artificial insemination, embryos, abortion, euthanasia – cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has returned to the last of these topics, euthanasia, with an article that appeared on January 21 on the front page of the Sunday edition of “Il Sole 24 Ore,” the leading economics and finance newspaper in Italy, and one of the most important in all of Europe.

This time as well his statements have been interpreted as a criticism of the papal line of absolute opposition to intentionally caused “gentle death.”

And again this time – like nine months ago – the official Catholic media have shrouded cardinal Martini’s statements in silence, while the secular media have amplified them.

But a controversy that pits the highest leaders of the worldwide Church against each other with conflicting positions on topics of such importance cannot remain hidden within the Church itself.

It is a controversy with its own concrete proximate cause, background, and developments.


The event that prompted cardinal Martini to speak out again on the topic of euthanasia is that of Piergiorgio Welby, a seriously ill man who – as the cardinal himself wrote – “lucidly asked for the suspension of respiratory support therapies, which in the past nine years have been constituted by a tracheotomy and an automatic ventilator.”

Welby’s request to cut off his life shook public opinion in Rome and Italy during the last weeks of 2006, with an intensity almost as great as that surrounding the Terry Schiavo case in America. It drew in and divided the Catholic community, the scientific community, and the political world, with the strong mobilization of supporters of legalized euthanasia. Welby lay infirm, but still lucid and capable of expressing himself, in his home in Rome. His wife, mother, and sister are practicing Catholics. But his wife has said of him: “I don’t know if he really thought there is life after death, or if he believed in God.” In any case, around him and in his name, during the days before and after his death, there was celebrated before the eyes of all a secular liturgy made up of nocturnal vigils, of solidarity given and implored, of humanitarian campaigns, of high emotion at Christmastime.

Welby died at the hands of a doctor three days before Christmas. And when his wife asked for a religious funeral, the diocese of Rome – the bishop of which is the pope, with cardinal Camillo Ruini as vicar – refused the request, giving this reason:

“Because, unlike the cases of suicide in which it is presumed there was an absence of the conditions for full awareness and deliberate consent, Mr. Welby repeatedly and publicly affirmed his desire to end his life, something that is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.” The statement did not alter in any way the duty of praying for the man.

Welby’s relatives, friends, and supporters responded to the denial of a religious funeral by celebrating a secular rite in the square in front of the nearby parish. It was the morning of Sunday, December 24. At the midday Angelus, Benedict XVI told the crowd packed into St. Peter’s Square:

“In the God who became man for us we all feel loved and welcomed, we discover we are precious and unique in the eyes of the Creator. The Nativity of Christ helps us to become aware of how valuable human life is, the life of every human being, from its first moment to its natural end.”

And the following morning, in the Christmas message “urbi et orbi,” to the city and to the world, Benedict XVI again said, speaking of man in our times:

“This man of the twenty-first century presents himself as the sure and self-sufficient architect of his own destiny. It seems that way, but it’s not. What can be thought of someone who in choosing death believes he is exalting life?”


What I'm listening to

Click on the links if you want to listen, too.

In Trutina (from Orff's Carmina Burana) sung by Lucia Popp

Laudate Dominumn (from Mozart's Vesperae olennes de confessore, K.339) sung by Emma Kirkby

Polish prosecutor investigating blackmail by former secret police

~from CWN

A public prosecutor in Lublin, Poland, has opened an investigation into charges that former Communist officials are selling documents from the archives of the secret police.

The investigation comes in response to the charge made by Lublin’s Archbishop Jozef Zycinski, who said that former government officials are using the documents in effect to blackmail Church officials. The archbishop said that he had refused to discuss the purchase of documents that purportedly involved cooperation by Polish clerics with the secret police.

A conversion story

~from Georgia Bulletin

A then “firmly pro-choice” philosophy major at Agnes Scott College, Joy Payton wrote her senior thesis on medical ethics to defend euthanasia. But during her research she came to realize that she couldn’t make a cogent argument to justify it and shifted the focus of the paper to refute it—and became pro-life.

Payton was raised in Nashville in the fundamentalist Christian tradition but was somewhat “unchurched.” In her desire to better integrate her faith into her life, she began attending the Newman Club Catholic student association, which simply seemed more “philosophically engaged” than some Protestant groups on campus. But once she became pro-life, “I became more and more enthralled with the Catholic Church and the Eucharist.”

“I came to believe Jesus Christ is truly present in a special way in the Eucharist.”

So by the end of college she felt called to Catholicism and joined the church at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at Easter of 2001, only telling her parents after her conversion.

“I said to myself, this is not one more hobby but a total life change” in committing herself to God and the church. She was absolutely open to God’s will for her, whether single or married, with only one stipulation—just not religious life. “I felt resistant to say yes to God in religious life,” but “I resolved not to think about it.”

After all, this “inveterate extrovert” was very outgoing, had lots of friends and was just “too loud” to fit the reserved stereotype of a nun and make religious vows.

“I didn’t think people even do this anymore. I’m too bossy. I liked to party,” she recalls thinking.

And she dated, too, always assuming she would get married, but when she became Catholic she ended a two-year relationship with a man because of their disparate views on religion. When she called her mother and told her she had joined the Catholic Church, the first question she asked her was, “are you going to become a nun?” But she somehow couldn’t say no and responded that she didn’t know where God would call her.

She eventually began working at Worldspan as a computer programmer, a job where she felt appreciated and respected, but one that she didn’t really envision doing for 50 years. As she tried to squelch thoughts of religious life, they resurfaced in her mind and she would tell herself that she was just doing research when she snuck peeks at Web sites of religious communities.

Eventually she applied and was hired for a job at Swiss Air working in Switzerland, cutting a deal with God that she would spend a year or two overseas discerning her vocation. She got rid of most of her belongings, including furniture and even special books. When terrorists attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, the promised job collapsed with the twin towers, as the airline rescinded its job offer and the industry foundered.

She had virtually no possessions, no plan. “I kind of un-resigned” at Worldspan. As she experienced the thorns of that vicissitude, she reflected on how terrorism is a choice born out of hopelessness and how a sense of being voiceless, desperate, marginalized and maltreated fosters violent acts.

“I was in such pain and such wonder at how such a thing could happen, thinking this (horror) is normal for people in many parts of the world, living in fear and sorrow. … It was a realization for me that this is normal for a lot of people and what can I do in my life to ameliorate that.”

The young adult was also somehow unburdened by cleaning out her apartment and mind. “I had gotten rid of all distractions. No TV—my apartment was empty. I got rid of my books. I realized how much I loved having very few things. ... That was such a liberating feeling and experiencing that was a surprise to me. Maybe I could take a vow of poverty and be really happy.”

Continue reading her story

Investigative reporting on the Sacrament of Confession

~from CNA

The Vatican newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano," has sharply criticized an article published by a weekly Italian newspaper based on a series of false confessions throughout Italy, calling it an "attack on religious sensitivities,” and a breach of “professional ethics.”

In order "to reveal" what Italian Catholic priests teach in confessionals on certain matters of ethics and morality, reporters of the weekly "L'Espresso" acted as penitents - an act the Church considers sacrilegious given the sacred nature of the Sacrament of Penance.

An editorial in L'Osservatore Romano denounced the act, saying it "has desecrated the sacrament...attacking the religious sensibilities of the faithful and deceiving the good faith of priests, seriously wounding the inviolability of pastoral ministry."

The Vatican newspaper called the report "shameless" and a "seriously unheard-of episode" accusing the weekly of crossing "the imposed limits of professional ethics."

Years ago, the Italian communist newspaper L'Unitá resorted to a similar method "to uncover" the political inclinations of Italian priests. The sacrilegious experiment, in both occasions, proved to be a useless journalistic abuse, as the results showed that an overwhelming majority of Italian priests teach in the confessional exactly what the Church preaches publicly.

Adoption Exemption Denied in Britain

~from Zenit

Despite appeals from bishops and other religious leaders in Great Britain, the prime minister says there will be no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for Catholic adoption agencies.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, president of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, said in a statement that today's decision is deeply disappointing.

Last week the cardinal pointed out in a letter sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair and members of the Cabinet that proposed sexual orientation regulations would require Catholic agencies to "act against the principles of Catholic teaching." 

The Equality Act 2006, which will come into force in April after Parliament's approval next month, bans discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation, and would require Catholic agencies to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.

Instead of an exemption, which was supported by the bishops of Scotland, the Anglican Church and the Muslim Council of Britain, the prime minister said the Church would have a 21-month grace period to implement the law.

Catholic principles

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said today, "This debate has raised crucial issues for the common good of our society. We believe there is an urgent task to reach a new consensus on how best the public role of religious organizations can be safeguarded and their rights upheld.

"We are, of course, deeply disappointed that no exemption will be granted to our agencies on the grounds of widely held religious conviction and conscience.

"We look to the forthcoming parliamentary debate to address some of the fundamental issues centered on the well-being of the child, whose needs must always be put first."

A new bishop for Youngstown

~from the Vatican

The Holy Father has named the Most Rev. George Vance Murry, SJ, to be the new Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, OH. Bishop Murry had been serving as Bishop to the Diocese of the St. Thomas, Virgin Islands since 1999. He was born in 1948 in Camden, NJ and was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus in 1979. He is the Chairman of the Bishops Committee on African-American Catholics.

St. Martina, virgin and martyr

She was a noble Roman virgin, who glorified God, suffering many torments and a cruel death for his faith, in the capital city of the world, in the third century. There stood a chapel consecrated to her memory in Rome, which was frequented with great devotion in the time of St. Gregory the Great. Her relics were discovered in a vault, in the ruins of her old church and translated with great pomp in the year 1634, under the Pope Urban VIII, who built a new church in her honor, and composed himself the hymns used in her office in the Roman Breviary. The city of Rome ranks her among its particular patrons. The history of the discovery of her relics was published by Honoratus of Viterbo, an Oratorian.

~from Vol. I of The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company

In Christ are the first-fruits of the Resurrection

~by St. Irenaeus

The Word of God became man, the Son of God became the Son of Man, in order to unite man with himself and make him, by adoption, a son of God. Only by being united to one who is himself immune could we be preserved from corruption and death, and how else could this union have been achieved if he had not first become what we are? How else could what is corruptible and mortal in us have been swallowed up in his incorruptibility and immortality, to enable us to receive adoptive sonship? Therefore, the Son of God, our Lord, the Word of the Father, is also the son of man; he became the son of man by a human birth from Mary, a member of the human race.

The Lord himself has given us a sign here below and in the heights of heaven, a sign that man did not ask for because he never dreamt that such a thing would be possible. A virgin was with a child and she bore a son who is called Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. He came down to the earth here below in search of the sheep that was lost, the sheep that was in fact his own creature, and then ascended into the heights of heaven to offer to the Father and entrust to his care the human race that he had found again. The Lord himself became the first-fruits of the resurrection of mankind, and when its time of punishment for disobedience is over the rest of the body, to which the whole human race belongs, will rise from the grave as the head has done.

By God’s aid it will grow and be strengthened in all its joints and ligaments, each member having its own proper place in the body. There are many rooms in the Father’s house because the body has many members.

God bore with man patiently when he fell because he foresaw the victory that would be his through the Word. Weakness allowed strength its full play, and so revealed God’s kindness and great power.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Which classical composer are you?

~for Monday levity. Take the quiz.
You are:

Giuseppe Verdi

The king of Italian opera.

Hey, cool. I'm Joe Green.

Click here to listen to the incomparable Montserrat Caballé sing the aria, Ah, for'sè lui: Sempre libera, from La Traviata.

Magister analysis on Cardinal Martini's contrary positions

~from CNA

Why is Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan, distancing himself from the Church on an issue as critical as that of euthanasia Vatican analyst Sandro Magister provides the complex answer to that question in his latest weekly column set to be released tomorrow.

The secular press has given wide coverage to the decision by Cardinal Martini to write a front-page article for Italy’s top business daily “Il Sole 24 ore,” in which he justifies certain forms of euthanasia that are not only against the teachings of the Church, but also in clear opposition to recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI on the issue.

In Magister’s article, to be published in four languages this Tuesday, the Vaticanista offers a unique angle on the debate in Italy, which heated up after the death of Piergiorgio Welby, a paralyzed man who demanded and obtained euthanasia with the cooperation of doctor.

According to Magister, the decision by Cardinal Martini to set himself on a collision course with the Italian bishops and with the Holy See is “a controversy that has its own immediate explosiveness, its history, and its developments.”

The article will be published by the Italian weekly “L’Espresso” and will include the responses that Martini’s article has generated and that have been largely ignored by the Italian and international press. The article can be read Tuesday at Chiesa.

Pontiff makes personal donation to chaplaincy in Cambridge

~from CNA

Pope Benedict XVI has done his part to encourage the Roman Catholic chaplaincy at one of Great Britain’s top universities. According to the Times of London, the Holy Father made an unprecedented personal donation of £2,000 (~$3,917 USD) to the Roman Catholic chaplaincy at the University of Cambridge, last week.

It is reported that the Pontiff, who himself was a university professor for many years, intended the donation to signal his “encouragement and support,” for the ministry program.

The Times reports that school’s Fisher House chaplaincy is staffed by two priests and a Dominican nun and is currently in the midst of a £2 million foundation appeal.

The Catholic academic community in Cambridge is dependent on the chaplaincy for its community life, and about 450 people attend Mass on Sundays.

The chaplaincy, in the center of one of England’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning reportedly has two choirs who sing in English and Latin and welcomes around eight converts into the Church each year. In recent years, there have been ten vocations to the priesthood coming out of Fisher House.

The chaplaincy receives no funds from the university and hardly any from the local dioceses.

Church (Scotland): we'll make gay rights martyrs

~from the Scotsman

THE Catholic Church is to go to war over new legislation on rights for homosexuals, vowing to create "gay rights martyrs" if the laws are passed.

In a change of tactics, Church officials now say they will not close down adoption agencies as a result of new laws forcing them to deal with applications from gay couples.

Instead, they will deliberately break the law in order to bring a case to court. The Church believes it could then challenge a guilty verdict through Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, which upholds the freedom of religious expression.

The challenge considerably increases the temperature in a row that last week left the Cabinet divided and prompted warnings from Church leaders that the issue would prompt them to campaign against Labour in May's Scottish elections. Scotland has two Catholic adoption agencies, which place about 200 children and offer aftercare to 2,000 more.

Previously, Church leaders have said that the agencies would be forced to close, however, a spokesman for the Church told Scotland on Sunday: "We will not shut down the agencies. We will carry on working until someone takes us to court for breaking the law." He added: "There would then be a case where one of our agencies would be found guilty of breaking the law and would be put out of business."

He went on: "We believe there is an opportunity for a judicial review on the grounds that compelling people to act against their religious beliefs contravenes Article 9 of the ECHR."

The plan follows a similar challenge brought against the government in Northern Ireland, where the act has already been introduced. Brought by the Christian Institute, the bid will go ahead in March, in an attempt to topple the regulations in the Province.

The Church is now also warning of other examples where its members may find themselves breaking the new legislation. Once passed, the Equality Act, will ban any discrimination in the provision of services on grounds of sexuality.

The spokesman added: "We will see priests prosecuted for saying they are not renting the hall for a same-sex celebration." He went on: "What about the Christian bookshop which refuses to stock gay literature? They will all be breaking the law."


Hymns replaced by Bono lyrics at church

~from The Telegraph

John Lennon once enraged Christians by claiming that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. The Church of England is now recognising the pulling power of rock stars by recruiting Bono, the singer and lyricist of U2, in its bid to boost congregations.

A Church of England bishop is to preside at this country's first "U2-charist", an adapted Holy Communion service that uses the Irish supergroup's best-selling songs in place of hymns.

In what is more rock concert than Book of Common Prayer, a live band will belt out U2 classics such as Mysterious Ways and Beautiful Day as worshippers sing along with the lyrics, which will appear on screens. The atmosphere will be further enhanced by a sophisticated lighting system that will pulse with the beat, and striking visual images of poverty and drought.

Despite his rock star antics, including swearing on live television, Bono is regarded as a Christian icon by many who point to the spiritual content of his music.

His high-profile anti-poverty campaigns with fellow Irish musician Bob Geldof have elevated him to saintly status in some circles.

But while Bono is open about his Christian influences, he has also clashed with Church leaders over issues such as Aids.

Traditionalists who fear the Church is diluting its message to attract the young will be dismayed at its willingness to embrace Bono.

Such doubts are not shared by the Bishop of Grantham, the Rt Rev Timothy Ellis, who is organising the U2-charist in St Swithin's church in Lincoln in May.

"Bono and Bob Geldof are very human, but they have demonstrated that they believe there is sanctity to life that has to be protected," he said. "If that makes them saints, then I would go along with that."

Bishop Ellis said that the eve-of-Pentecost service in the city centre church would be a traditional one, but stripped down to basics.

"We are hoping the service will be a fresh way to look at worship, less formal, and less rigid," he said.

"People will be able to express themselves in any way they wish.

"This is not designed to replace traditional services but to enhance the worship provision of the Church. More

U2 songsheet

Extracted lyrics of songs used in American U2-charists, compiled by the Rev Paige Blair in York Harbor, Maine

When Love Comes To Town
I was there when they crucified my Lord,
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword,
I threw the dice when they pierced his side,
But I've seen love conquer the great divide

Mysterious Ways
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright,
She moves in mysterious ways,
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright,
We move through miracle days,
Spirit moves in mysterious ways

Explain all these controls,
Can't sing but I've got soul,
The goal is elevation,
A mole,
Digging in a hole,
Digging up my soul now,
Going down, excavation

Most Holy Mother of God Serbian Orthodox Monastery

~Daniel has posted beautiful photos of the interior of the monastery church. Here's one of the iconostasis. Click on the photo to visit The Lion and The Cardinal.

Prayer as Recipe for Holier Families

~from Zenit

Prayer topped the list of several practical tips for strengthening the Catholic family that the bishop of Amarillo offered in a recent pastoral letter.

In the letter released this month, Bishop John Yanta suggested that families should go to Sunday Mass or pray the rosary together, but added that "minimum family prayer might begin with family meals together praying."

The bishop reminded parents of their responsibility to teach their children to pray. "No Catholic child," he said, "should be enrolled in a Catholic school or CCD program who doesn't already know by heart how to recite the Sign of the Cross, Our Father, and Hail Mary."

Bishop Yanta also warned parents to not make the mistake of asking their children what they want to be when they grow up, but rather to teach them to ask what God wants of them.

"Parents should remember and teach that the first calling of the Christian and Catholic is to follow Christ," he said.

The bishop said God "has a special love for every human person and a special plan for each of us."

"So the question becomes," he said, "What do you think God wants you to be in your life?"

Doing the will of God, Bishop Yanta wrote, is "the shortcut to holiness."

"You can avoid a lot of grief in life by simply surrendering to God's plan and do his holy will all the time," he added.

He gave as an example the Virgin Mary who "thought it was God's plan to marry Joseph; but God showed her a different plan. Mary changed her original plans and Mary's 'yes' inspires us to live a daily 'yes' to God's will or his plan."


"Every child is a gift," Bishop Yanta continued in his letter. "Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity."

"It takes strong faith," he added, "to have a large family."

Quoting Pope Paul VI, the bishop underlined the importance of the family, "a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings."

The hearts and minds of all believers were one

~by St. Hilary of Poitiers

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity! It is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity, because when they do so their association creates the assembly of the Church. The term “brothers” describes the bond of affection arising from their singleness of purpose.

We read that when the apostles first preached, the chief instruction they gave lay in this saying: The hearts and minds of all believers were one. So it is fitting for the people of God to be brothers under one Father, to be united under one Spirit, to live in harmony under one roof, to be limbs of one body.

It is pleasant and good for brothers to dwell in unity. The prophet suggested a comparison for this good and pleasant activity when he said: It is like the ointment on the head which ran down over the beard of Aaron, down upon the collar of his garment. Aaron’s oil was made of the perfumes used to anoint a priest. It was God’s decision that his priest should have his consecration first, and that our Lord should be so anointed, but not visibly, by those who are joined with him. Aaron’s anointing did not belong to this world; it was not done with the horn used for kings, but with the oil of gladness. So afterward Aaron was called the anointed one as the Law proscribed.

When this oil is poured out upon men of unclean heart, it snuffs out their lives, but when it is received as an anointing of love, it exudes the sweet odour of harmony with God. As Paul says, we are the goodly fragrance of Christ. So just as it was pleasing to God when Aaron was anointed priest with this oil, so it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity.

Now the oil ran down from his head to his beard. A beard adorns a man of mature years. We must not be children before Christ except in the restricted scriptural sense of being children in wickedness but not in our way of thinking. Now Paul calls all who lack faith, children, because they are too weak to take solid food and still need milk. As he says: I fed you with milk rather than the solid food for which you were not yet ready; and you are still not ready.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Virgin Mary inspiration for Paris couture designer

~We got introduced to clerical chic last week, now it's madonna-chic. From CWN

To solemn organ music and the rising vapours of incense, models in veils or shimmering halos graced the catwalk of fashion's erstwhile 'enfant terrible' Gaultier.(AFP/Martin Bureau)

A noted Parisian fashion designer has given his new collection a name referring to the Virgin Mary.

Jean Paul Gaulthier entitled his spring-summer show “Regina Mundi: on earth as in heaven.” Explaining why he made the Virgin Mary the central inspiration for his new fashions, Gaulthier commented: “The Virgin is a mom. All women are madonnas, no?”

“Mine is only a search esthetically and I do not believe that anyone is offended,” Gaulthier added. In the past, the designer has dedicated collections to Hassidic Jews and to the Orthodox Churches, without objection. In the past, the designer has dedicated collections to Hassidic Jews and to the Orthodox churches, without prompting any public objections.

Gaulthier’s announcement comes just days after another designer, Donatello Versace, revealed a new line of men’s clothing modeled on the public image presented by Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI. Versace had said that an austere, ascetical look can be “very elegant.”

A model presents a creation by French designer Franck Sorbier as part of his Spring-Summer 2007 Haute Couture fashion show in Paris January 24, 2007. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE)

We're Catholic and we're chic. Imagine that.

Adoro te devote

Adoro te devote (words by St. Thomas Aquinas)
Click here to listen to chant

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius.

In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et Humanitas,
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor:
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.

O memoriale mortis Domini!
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini!
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.

Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen
+ + +

Translation by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at Thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

On the cross Thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here Thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what Thy bosom ran
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with Thy glory's sight. Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the church

by Tom Kreitzberg

St. Thomas was born in Italy, the son of the Count of Aquino, in 1225. Against his family's forcefully expressed wishes, he became a Dominican friar and, in 1245, began his studies under Albert the Great in Paris and Cologne. His fellow students, misunderstanding Thomas's humility and reticence, gave him the nickname "the Dumb Ox." After hearing one of Thomas's theological arguments, St. Albert declared, "We call this young man a dumb ox, hut his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world."

In 1250, Thomas was ordained a priest, and about 1252 he was sent to teach at the Dominican school in Paris. From there, he became increasingly famous and increasingly in demand for his teaching, preaching, and writing. In 1266 he began the Summa Theologica, perhaps the greatest theological work in Western Christendom. Though not dogmatic Church teaching itself, its influence on the subsequent development of Roman Catholic theology can hardly be exaggerated.

A famous anecdote illustrates Thomas's obsession with the truths of God: He was once summoned to the court of King St. Louis for a royal dinner. Placed at the king's right hand, he sank into quiet reflection while the chattering of the court went on about him. Suddenly, he smacked the table with a hand, cried, "That will settle the Manichees!" and called out for his secretary. When it was pointed out that this was not proper behavior in the royal presence, Thomas apologized and explained that he had thought he was in his cell. Louis, a king but also a saint, had the wisdom to summon a secretary for his guest.

Following Mass on the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6), 1273, Thomas gave up his writing. When asked whether he ought not continue, he replied, "All that I have written seems to me like straw compared with what has now been revealed to me." Three months later, he died while journeying to the Council of Lyons.

It bears noting that, while St. Thomas was named a Doctor of the Church for his writings, he was named a saint for his life. His passionate love of God, his devotion to the Eucharist and Christ Crucified, and his profound humility are what animate the Summa -- which is, after all, merely a love letter, an inadequate expression of the love of the creature for the Creator. We may not all be able to match St. Thomas in intellect or fineness of thought, but we are each given the graces necessary to follow him in constant devotion to God.

Among the gifts St. Thomas Aquinas left the Church are the beautiful hymns, including the Pange Lingua ("Sing, My Tongue"), from his Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The final two verses of Pange Lingua are known as the Tantum Ergo ("Down in Adoration Falling"), and are used during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament:

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.
Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe'r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty.

~Listen to Pange Lingua

Pope Benedict XVI, aided by a young boy, left, and a young girl (unseen at right), releases one of two doves as a symbol of peace from his apartment window overlooking St. (AP/PLINIO LEPRI)

Angelus: Faith presupposes reason and perfects it

Pope Benedict XVI looks at a white dove released by children from the window of his private apartment at the end of the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican January 28, 2007. The Pope delivered a message of peace on Sunday, flanked by two children who released two doves. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN)

~translated by Teresa Benedetta of Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters:

Today, the liturgical calendar remembers St. Thomas Aquinas, great doctor of the Church. With his charism as philosopher and theologian, he offers a valid model of harmony between reason and faith, dimensions of the human spirit that are fully realized in their reciprocal encounter and dialog.

According to St. Thomas, human reason 'breathes', so to speak - meaning, it moves through a horizon that is wide and open, in which it can express itself best. But when instead, man is reduced to thinking only of material and experimentable objects but closes himself off to the great questions about life, himself and God, he is impoverished.

The relationship between faith and reason constitutes a great challenge for the dominant culture in the Western world today, and precisely because of this, the beloved John Paul II dedicated an enyclical to it entitled, precisely, Fides et Ratio, faith and reason. I picked up the same theme recently in my discourse at the University of Regensburg.

In fact, modern advances in science have brought innumerable positive effects which will always be acknowledged as such. At the same time, it must be admitted that the tendency to consider true only that which is experimentable constitutes a limitation to human reason and produces a terrible schizophrenia between rationalism and amterialism, hypertechonology and unbridled instinct.

Therefore it is urgent to rediscover in a new way human rationality that is open to the light of the divine Logos (reason) and its perfect revelation in Jesus Christ, Son of God made man.

When it is authentic, Christian faith does not subdue freedom and human reason, so why should faith and reason fear each other if, in encounter and dialog, they can both be better expressed?

Faith presupposes reason and perfects it; and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the power to elevate itself to an awareness of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing in opening itself to the contents of faith; rather the latter demands the free and conscious application of rwason.

With farsighted wisdom, St. Thomas Aquinas succeeded to establish a fruitful confrontation with the Arab and Jewish thinking in his time, and we consider him even today a master, always valid, of dialog with other cultures and religions.

He knew how to present that wonderful Christian synthesis of reason and faith that is a precious patrimony of Western civilization, which even today we can draw from in order to dialog effectively with the great cultural and religious traditions of the East and of the South.

Let us pray that Christians, especially those who work in the academic and cultural fields, will know how to express the reasonableness of their faith and testify to it in a dialog inspired by love. Let us ask this gift of our Lord through the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas and above all, of Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

Love is cruel, possessive and easily angered

~a homily by Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

A Reading from the Unholy Gospel of St. Narcissus…

Praise be to me and me alone!

My wretched Slaves and convenient Tools, you have heard that love is patient and kind, forgiving and humble; that those who love seek the good for the Other and rejoice in the truth. You have heard many things about the world that will not serve you well. And among these is the foolish sentiment that love is anything but Selfishness writ large across the Ego—a passion that will not be saddled and ridden like a domesticated tiger but loosely bridled and allowed its furious run. Love is impatient for love in return. Love is cruel because it must end. Love cannot be generous or polite. It is a passion, obsessive, possessive, and rude. Love is a grandiose tale, a violent power, a torrent of abusive lies aimed at your tender heart. Love has a temper and most certainly nurses hurt. Love will bear nothing, believe nothing, hope nothing, and endure even less. Love fails. My face in a gilded mirror tells the truth of love: distrust, despair, delusion. Love is vengeance on the weak for being vulnerable to need. Need nothing, want nothing. Be strong! And heal yourself. Enlighten yourself. Give yourself peace. Save yourself. Build idols to your silenced need and keep control. Finally, Slaves and Tools, remember and act: love is a desperate ruse, a way to see you bowed. If you must love, love my god…love Me.

This is the Gospel of St. Narcissus!

If I wanted to preach an unholy homily on the vices of love, I couldn’t do much better than to proclaim this gospel of St Narcissus and point out to you that, though we would deny the truth of this passage if pressed, most of us have experienced love as our impious saint has described it. Hurt. Loss. Aggravation. Passion given but not returned in kind. There is often a disordered feel to the way we love, a shaky balance to the way we will the good for the other. And why? When we love, why do we sometimes sense the presence of our unholy evangelist and his nasty gospel of ego-bloated cynicism? Paul is clear: love is the greatest spiritual gift. Love is a gift. A passion with which we are graced. Think of a green tea bag releasing its brew into a cup of hot water. God diffuses His love through us, infusing us with the best routine, the most excellent exercise of doing the good for everyone around us—the virtue of charity.

In an act of astonishing charity, Jesus stands in the synagogue, reads the messianic prophecy from Isaiah, and tells those listening that he is the Messiah of Isaiah’s prophet vision. They are amazed at his graciousness, at his generosity in revealing who he is. But they quickly turn skeptical when they realize that Jesus is a local-boy-made-prophet. His credibility teeters on the edge of the crowd’s fickle attention as Jesus attacks before he can be attacked. Essentially, he says, “Now I bet you’re gonna want me to do some miracle for you to prove who I am. Prophets are never accepted in their own hometowns.” He cites Elijah in Sidon and Elisha in Israel as prophets who were sent to lands and peoples other than their own to perform miraculous healings. Prophets wander, yes; but they wander at God’s command, His initiative—not their own! In effect, Jesus is refusing to prove to them through miracles that he is who he says he is. He is, therefore, a blasphemer and a rebel. The crowd pushes him to cliff to send him to his death. But Jesus safely passes through them and leaves Nazareth never to return.

Consistent with Jesus’ reluctance to prove anything with supernatural performances, he instead calls on those who hear his words to listen carefully to that spot, that space, that empty room in their souls where he would dwell, to listen carefully to their God-gifted desire for a divine life, to their God-gifted longing for healing, to their God-gifted need for rescue…to listen to his word, and let his Word call them to him. It is Love Himself to calls to their (and to our!) emptiness, our desolation, our grief, and frustration. No miracle can prove the satisfaction one feels at having been made clean, washed pure. No miracle will confirm or deny the electric truth of having been touched by the creating and re-creating Word of the Father—to see and hear and feel and smell the undiluted passion of our God for His creation, to taste His body and blood and know that Love became one of us, died as one of us, rose from his grave for us; and now, with wholly perfected charity, he sits in judgment on our obedience and on our yet to be quenched thirst for eternal joy.

Love judges you…so, be found at the time of judgment loving, rejoicing, believing, hoping, enduring. Love never fails us and we cannot fail in Love.

But we do fail without Love. Paul says that we are just noisy gongs without love, meaningless racket. That without love we gain nothing from our poverty and willing surrender. And the scariest of all—even with faith enough to shift mountains, we ARE nothing without love. Gifts of tongues, wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, all these gifts will cease; they are incomplete, partial-- “when the perfect comes the partial will pass away.” Like a racing wind, what we do and say and build and write without love will pass into the heated desert and evaporate. Faith, hope, and love will remain “but the greatest of these is love.”

Do you hear the gospel of Christ or the gospel of St. Narcissus? Which do you follow? Is your life in the faith joyful? Does being a follower of Jesus make you happy? Do you feel compelled to serve others? Can you release fear and anxiety and throw yourself on the promises of God? Are you angry, afraid, impatient, cruel, rude? Do you take your spiritual lessons from day-time TV and practice the saccharine self-help arts? Are you a spiritual athlete running to holiness under your own power, bypassing the weaker brethren and waving with self-sufficient pride as you pass? Do you believe that you invent your truth? Your right and wrong? Do you gamble against hope? Look for evidence to believe? Endure b/c failure is socially embarrassing? When your priest preaches on love, do you think he’s weak or liberal or mushy theologically? Do you think he ought to spend more time telling those sinners over there to Stop It! But Father, there are politicians, bishops, theologians, Catholic professors who need to be called out for the scandals they’re causing! No doubt. Can they look to you for a good example of how to love themselves back toward holiness and truth? Or will they learn from you, from me how to be quick-tempered, brooding, rude, and unloving?

If you know everything there is to know; if you ooze wisdom from your skin; if you prophesy in the Holy Spirit with 100% accuracy; if you sell everything, give the money to the poor, and surrender completely to God, running around butt-naked and broke; if you do all this and you do not love—you have gained nothing b/c you are nothing.

To be loved by God is life; to love b/c He loved us first is living. And so, preach this gospel: our God never fails—bear all things with Him, believe all things in Him, hope for all things from Him, and…endure, endure, endure. God never fails. God is Love. Love never fails.

Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory

~by St. Ignatius of Antioch

From Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, his beloved, at Smyrna in Asia, wishing you all joy in an immaculate spirit and the Word of God. By his mercy you have won every gift and lack none, filled as you are with faith and love, beloved of God and fruitful in sanctity.

I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, well aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakeable faith. You are like men who have been nailed body and soul to the cross of Jesus Christ, confirmed in love by his blood.

In regard to the Lord, you firmly believe that he was of the race of David according to the flesh, but God’s son by the will and power of God; truly born of the Virgin and baptised by John, that all justice might be fulfilled; truly nailed to a cross in the flesh for our sake under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and of his most blessed passion we are the fruit. And thus, by his resurrection he raised up a standard over his saints and faithful ones for all time (both Jews and Gentiles alike) in the one body of his Church. For he endured all this for us, for our salvation; and he really suffered, and just as truly rose from the dead.

As for myself, I am convinced that he was united with his body even after the resurrection. When he visited Peter and his companions, he said to them: Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body. Immediately they touched him and believed, clutching at his body and his very spirit. And for this reason they despised death and conquered it. In addition, after his resurrection, the Lord ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father.

And so I am giving you serious instruction on these things, dearly beloved, even though I am aware that you believe them to be so.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Iraq, Iran invite Pope to visit

~from CWN (yikes, double yikes!)

Both Iran and Iraq have issued invitations for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI, according to Italian media reports.

During the Pope’s regular annual meeting with members of the Vatican diplomatic corps, Iran's envoy Mohammed Javad Faridzadeh asked the Pontiff to visit the Islamic republic, according to one report. The Iranian envoy reportedly said that the Pope did not refuse the invitation. No schedule was suggested for the visit.

The Iraqi envoy, Ismail Yelda, also mentioned the possibility of a papal visit to his country. Iraqi officials suggested that a papal visit might include a meeting with the Shiite Ayatollah Al Sistani in the Islamic city of Najaf.

The Vatican has not issued any public comment on the reported invitations. Privately, informed officials downplayed the likelihood that either trip would take place.

KGB's smear campaign against Pius XII

~from CNA

A former high-ranking officer with the KGB claims that the Kremlin and the Russian intelligence agency in the 1960s were set on executing a smear campaign against the Catholic Church, and the main target was Pope Pius XII.

In a recent issue of the National Review Online, Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who eventually defected from the former Soviet bloc, recounts how the KGB and the Kremlin designed the deliberate campaign to portray the Pius XII “as a coldhearted Nazi sympathizer.”

“In February 1960, Nikita Khrushchev approved a super-secret plan for destroying the Vatican’s moral authority in Western Europe,” writes Pacepa. “Eugenio Pacelli, by then Pope Pius XII, was selected as the KGB’s main target, its incarnation of evil, because he had departed this world in 1958. ‘Dead men cannot defend themselves’ was the KGB’s latest slogan.”

The code name for this operation against Pope Pius XII was “Seat-12.”

The KGB used the fact that Archbishop Pacelli had served as the papal nuncio in Munich and Berlin when the Nazis were beginning their bid for power against him. “The KGB wanted to depict him as an anti-Semite who had encouraged Hitler’s Holocaust,” says Pacepa.

To do this, the KGB wanted some original Vatican documents to “slightly modify”. So they called in Pacepa, who was working for the Romanian intelligence service.

Pacepa says he became the Romanian point man. He was authorized to falsely inform the Vatican that Romania was ready to restore its broken relations with the Holy See, in exchange for access to its archives — in order to find historical roots that would help the Romanian government publicly justify its change of heart toward the Holy See — and a one-billion-dollar, interest-free loan for 25 years.

Between 1960 and 1962, the Romanian spy sent hundreds of archival documents connected in any way with Pope Pius XII to the KGB. Pacepa says none of the documents were incriminating in themselves, but they were sent to the KGB in any case.

The KGB used these documents to produce a powerful play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy. It eventually saw the stage in Germany in 1963, under the title The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy. It proposed that Pius XII had supported Hitler and encouraged him to go ahead with the Jewish Holocaust. The German director claimed to have 40 pages of documentation attached to the script that would support the thesis of the play.

The play ran in New York in 1964 and was translated into 20 languages. The play then led to a flurry of books and articles, some accusing and some defending the pontiff.

“Today, many people who have never heard of The Deputy are sincerely convinced that Pius XII was a cold and evil man who hated the Jews and helped Hitler do away with them,” Pacepa writes in the National Review Online. “As KGB chairman Yury Andropov, the unparalleled master of Soviet deception, used to tell me, people are more ready to believe smut than holiness.”

Pacepa says the truth has finally begun to emerge with the canonization process of Pius XII, which was opened by Pope John Paul II.

“Witnesses from all over the world have compellingly proved that Pius XII was an enemy, not a friend, of Hitler,” says Pacepa.

He also refers to the book The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews From the Nazis, by David G. Dalin, which has compiled further proof of Archbishop Pacelli’s friendship for the Jews.

“At the start of World War II, Pope Pius XII’s first encyclical was so anti-Hitler that the Royal Air Force and the French air force dropped 88,000 copies of it over Germany,” he concludes.

Holy Drinking Water

~from the California Catholic Daily

“Holy Drinking Water” is now on sale at Rinaldi’s Market in the tiny San Joaquin County community of Linden – and soon may be available at a store near you.

Wayne Enterprises Inc. of Linden, the company marketing the water, says on its website, “The initial idea behind this product is to provide people with a daily reminder that they can and should do good in life and that they may not be as bad of a person as they think.”

Each half-ounce bottle sells for 99 cents and carries a “Warning to sinners,” which reads: “If you are a sinner or evil in nature, this product may cause burning, intense heat, sweating, skin irritation, rashes, itchiness, vomiting, bloodshot and water eyes, pale skin color, and oral irritations.”

News of Holy Drinking Water, says Wayne Enterprises, has spread to New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Canada, and Israel. Thirty-three cases have been donated to U.S. troops in Iraq. (The website asks for donations for this “pious” endeavor.)

The water is purified by the reverse osmosis method, but that is not what makes it unique. Rather, its supposed charm lies in the fact that it “is blessed into holy water by hands of god,” by which is meant “a priest, churchman, clergyman, cleric, curate, divine, ecclesiastic, elder, father, friar, holy man, lama, monk, padre, pontiff, preacher, rabbi, rector, sky pilot, or vicar.”

Wayne Enterprises says it is accepting applications from prospective “gods,” whose information will be kept “highly confidential.” Wayne Enterprises president, Brian Germann, told the Oakland Tribune that he has two clergymen from two different religions blessing the water.

To avoid “unnecessary peer pressure” from clergy, Germann said he would not identify his sanctifiers. “This has the potential to be a controversial product,” he said.

Virginia Meagher, liturgy coordinator for the Stockton diocese, told the Tribune selling holy water “seems to be against the reason we bless water.” Bottled holy water, she said, isn’t a sacrilege, but “it’s probably not something we would encourage.”

Wayne Enterprises offers this warning for its product: “Consuming Holy Drinking Water should not replace attending church or any other establishment of worship.”

An Apron Manifesto

~by The Kitchen Madonna

After your funeral, do you think your granddaughter will bury her face in your professional-looking briefcase or in your treasured apron? When a woman puts on an apron, it makes no less of a statement than a fine leather briefcase. It announces she is on duty to be receptive to whatever happens in her home and everyone that encompasses. And that is a wider sphere of influence than many would allow.

An apron is like a uniform that conveys authority and unconditional regard and motherly wisdom all at once. Who said aprons are just about cooking and cleaning? They are also about emotional availability, hospitality, and femininity. They state in clearest terms that to serve is to reign.
There is an apron renaissance going on out there and much of it is recorded on the Internet.

Women everywhere are taking pictures of their aprons and posting them on certain blogs. They are scouring the Internet looking for vintage patterns and materials. They are writing about what being a mother and a housewife means to them. These women aren't depressed. They don't need valium or to drink secretly or to watch a wildly popular television show that is a diabolical inversion of their lives.

I am not proposing that we make out like we are Catholic Martha Stewarts with St. Therese sacrifice beads. This is not about impossible standards of perfection. Our husbands, our children, our guests, and our sanity come before immaculate homes. In fact, aprons can signal to pop-callers that a woman is about to clean her house. That she is far too gracious to let a little mess detract from her innate sense of hospitality.

I think a National Wear-an-Apron Day should be during the month of Immaculate Mary, the day after Mother's Day, May 14th this year. Amidst the quiet drama of our everyday lives, we can celebrate in gratitude our homes and families by toasting each other with tea and homemade cookies and fresh buttered bread. And go ahead, on Career Day at your local school, invite a girl over to see what your life is like. She most likely will have no idea how to hold a baby or how to make a stew or how to bake a casserole to take to a bereaved family or how soft your apron is for drying tears.

The devil very well may wear Prada, but authentically feminine women wear aprons!

If you support a National Wear-an-Apron Day, please email the Kitchen Madonna at

~Photo from The Kitchen Madonna

St. Angela Merici, virgin

The saint was born in 1474 in the diocese of Verona. Early in life she dedicated herself to Christ as His bride. After the death of her parents, she desired to live solely for God in quiet and solitude, but her uncle insisted that she manage his household. She renounced her patrimony in order to observe most perfectly the rule for Franciscan Tertiaries.

During a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1524, she lost her eyesight temporarily. Pope Clement VII, whom she visited in Rome, desired her to remain in the Holy City. Later she founded a society for girls, under the protection of St. Ursula; this was the beginning of the Ursuline Order. St. Angela was almost seventy when she died; her body remained incorrupt for thirty days. Remarkable phenomena occurred at her burial in the Church of St. Afra.

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

Behold, Lambs among Wolves

~a homily by Fr. Philip Powell, OP on the feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus

Good morning, Lambs! And if there are any wolves here dressed in lamb’s wool, good morning to you as well! Our Lord has sent us, the Lambs, to bring to those who need him his freedom and care. He has sent us out to bawl and bark the Word of the Father’s mercy to us—to frighten the spirits of illness and turmoil, to unnerve and expose the agents of spiritual slavery and vice. Our Lord has sent us out as teachers of a powerful Way, and charged us with not only talking about him and his Good News to others but he has also charged us with being him and his Good News for others. It is not enough to whisper the stories of his healing miracles or sing the stories of his travels with his merry band of brothers. Our Lord did not send us among the wolves to teach them history or biography; he did not send us among the unbelieving to entertain them with scripts and skits. We are sent out, cast away like ripening seed, to spread like kudzu and crab grass, a sincere faith, a confident trust in the truth of the Father’s gift of mercy.

And it is for this reason, Lambs, that I remind you to stir into flame the gifts of God that you have received through your baptism, the graces of the Spirit that came to you in your dying and rising again in Christ. Paul teaches Timothy that God did not give the Apostles a spirit of cowardice but one of power and love and temperance. Through the imposition of his hands on Timothy, Paul laid on him a spirit, a trust, a commission, a witness; he laid on Timothy’s heart and mind a new way of being Timothy in the world, a more perfect Way of being Christ for others and all. And there is no room in the Christ-crowded heart for cowardice or guile, for ignorance or deceit, for flinching from hardship in His service or running from surrender to His will.

Therefore, do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord! Go on your way and proclaim the marvelous works of our God to all the wolves, all the unclean spirits, all the sick, injured, lost, beaten, imprisoned, and cast-out; to all the beautiful, the rich, the wise, the well-connected; all the overeducated, the comfortable, those captive to their stunted religious imaginations and those deluded by error and dissent. Take nothing with you but the Spirit given you b/c there is nothing you can take along that matters more than Christ himself. What you need is given as you need it, provided out of the abundance and generosity of those to whom you bring the Word. Bring your witness to them and listen to their witness to you. What you might need most at that moment is a Word of power spoken to your fainting heart…

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gifts of God that you have received through your baptism! Timothy and Titus, made bishops by the laying on of hands, received the gift of ecclesial leadership—teaching, preaching, governing—and they spread the seeds of Christ’s Good News everywhere their beautiful feet took them! Not all of us are called to be bishops. Most of us are called to do something far more difficult: to be Christ where we find ourselves; to be powerful witnesses to the transformative power of love and mercy; to be lambs speaking the truth among wolves who demand that we lie in order to live peacefully among them. Praise God that you have been made clean, washed spotless and bright in the waters of baptism. Praise God that you have not been given a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power and love and temperance. Praise God for His banquet table, His altar of thanksgiving, where we eat and drink all that we need to do what He has asked to do and to be who He has made us to be.

Do not be ashamed of your testimony among the wolves! Shout out what Christ has done for you and dare the wolves to bare a single fang in defiance of that truth. We owe the wolves nothing but truth, b/c in the end, it’s all we have to give them.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cardinal Bertone defends Pius XII against critics

~from CWN

Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, has strongly defended Pope Pius XII against critics who charge that the Pontiff failed to protect Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

Speaking at a conference held in Rome to mark the publication of a new book by historian Martin Gilbert on unrecognized heroes of the Holocaust, Cardinal Bertone said that the best available research, done by independent historians, confirmed that Pope Pius XII took extraordinary steps to save Jewish lives.

Martin Gilbert, after studying the record of the wartime Pope in dealing with the Nazi genocide campaign, said: “I believe, all things considered, morally and politically, Pius XII acted appropriately and made the right decisions." A cause for the beatification of Pope Pius XII has been shadowed by controversy because of complaints that the Pontiff failed to protect Jews from the Holocaust-- a charge the Church historians have consistently rejected. Last year Father Peter Gumpel, SJ, an investigating judge involved in the cause, said that the process that could lead to the eventual beatification of Pope Pius XII is “well advanced.”

The human side of robots

~Wow! Annette Funicello robots. Who wouldn't want one? From The Telegraph:
The world is turning its back on hard technology, refusing to conform to its rigid demands.

As a consequence, science can no longer afford to be a cold and distant discipline.

What people now want are warm ideas, innovations and developments that are flexible, that fit into the modern environment. [Yeah, I need an Annette Funicello robot singing The Mouseketeer Song to me each day. Ummhmmm.]

In this fortnightly four-part series, we explore the world of the future (or, in some cases, the cutting-edge present), this week looking at, for instance, how robotics and robots are quite literally walking out of the laboratory and into everyday life.

In the coming weeks, we will be taking a peek at a greener world, what new designs mean to us, customised medicine and smart transport, among other things.

It's about forward vision.
The above robots aren't meant to simulate a Mouseketeer. But they certainly appears that way to me. Actually, they're Partner Ballroom Dancing Robots. See, you'd never have to go dateless to the next gala ball. You have your choice of colors, too...turquoise or fuschia. Tempting, no?

Online Adoration Chapel

Online Adoration Chapel via webcam from the Chapel of Divine Love in Philadelphia, PA of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters.

Catholic MPs warn Blair of voter backlash

~from The Telegraph

Tony Blair faced growing revolt from Roman Catholic Labour MPs last night over his climbdown in the gay adoption controversy.

The Bishop of Lancaster: 'I can see a backlash'

A survey of more than half the 40 Catholics in the Government, who represent predominately working class constituencies, showed that the majority supported an opt-out to allow Catholic adoption agencies to turn away gay couples.

The Prime Minister was also warned by a senior Catholic bishop to expect a backlash by some of Britain's four million Catholic voters if he refused to grant the opt-out from new gay rights laws, while an opinion poll found the country was evenly divided on the issue.

Peter Kilfoyle, the MP for Liverpool Walton, predicted that the threat by bishops to shut their agencies would cause lasting political damage to the Labour Party.

"This is just yet one more reason not to vote for us," Mr Kilfoyle, a former minister, said.

"My constituents are not the most enlightened people. They would be viewed by the London liberal tendency that is pushing this agenda as reactionary. [Been channeling Katherine Jefferts-Schori, Mr. Kilfoyle?]

"But they are decent people, with decent values, and they do not understand why the Government is doing this. They will react with disgust if any of the agencies do close. We will pay a heavy price and lose votes all over the country."

Joe Benton, the MP for neighbouring Bootle, said: "I have strong reservations over this. Nothing has persuaded me that it is right. There should be an exemption for the Church. We are getting ourselves into a terrible mess."

Another former minister said: "I am sure a deal will be done behind the scenes that will accommodate both sides. We badly need one."

The Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, said Labour could no longer count on the traditional support from Catholics and the gay adoption row could further dent its popularity.


Those unenlightened Catholics! Forever making a muisance of themselves.

The Laboratory is South Korea

~by Sandro Magister

For the second time in a few days, Benedict XVI has called everyone’s attention back to the present and future of Christians in East Asia.

On Thursday, January 25 he received (see photo) the Vietnamese prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, the first top official of the regime of Ho Chi Minh City ever to visit the Vatican. Vietnam is one of the Asian countries with the highest percentage of Catholics, preceded only by the Philippines. And the Church is especially lively there, in spite of the absence of religious freedom.

A few days earlier, on January 19-20, Benedict XVI had convened a meeting in the Vatican on the Catholic Church in China. The final statement from the meeting, apart from announcing an upcoming papal letter to the Chinese Catholics, emphasized the heroism of many faithful, priests, and bishops, their refusal to give in to compromises, the reestablishment of communion with the pope among "almost the entirety" of the bishops illegitimately installed by the communist regime in opposition to Rome, and, finally, the "surprising growth of the ecclesial community."

There are thought to be more than 12 million Catholics in China today. In 1949, before the advent of Mao Zedong, there were 3 million. Every year about 150,000 new baptized persons are added to their ranks, most of them adults. Many of these come from the professional classes and from the universities.

Another country of the Far East in which the Catholic Church is especially vigorous is South Korea. The faithful there have almost doubled in number over the past ten years, and now make up 10 percent of the population. Here, unlike in Vietnam and China, religious freedom is guaranteed, there is a good standard of living, and the challenges facing the Church are more like those found in the West.

In the interview presented below, the archbishop of Seoul, cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, gives a very effective description of the situation of the Catholic Church in South Korea, and speaks also of the dictatorial regime in North Korea.

Cheong is one of the three Asian bishops Benedict XVI made cardinals on March 24, 2006. The other two are the bishop of Manila, Gaudencio Borbon Rosales, and the bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

John Paul II had already indicated Asia to the Church as "our common task for the third millennium." And Benedict XVI is showing that he is very determined to continue along this road.

Today Asia is the continent with the lowest number of Catholics. But with the emergence of great nations like India and China, it will be the axis of the world in the future. Some of its civilizations, such as Japan, have proven to be almost impermeable to the Church’s missionary expansion. But this hasn’t always been the case for other immense regions of Asia. Christianity expanded into the East from the very beginning. Already in apostolic times it had a presence in India. Later, "Nestorian" Christianity spread from Syria through central Asia, all the way to China.

Today, if only more room would be made for religious freedom the Catholic Church could, in effect, expand again in many Asian countries – but that’s on the condition that its missionary impulse be kept alive.


Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

St. Timothy

Timothy was Paul's dearest disciple, his most steadfast associate. He was converted during the apostle's first missionary journey. When Paul revisited Lystra, Timothy, though still very young (about twenty) joined him as a co-worker and companion. Thereafter, there existed between them a most intimate bond, as between father and son. St. Paul calls him his beloved child, devoted to him "like a son to his father" (Phil. 2:22). Of a kindly disposition, unselfish, prudent, zealous, he was a great consolation to Paul, particularly in the sufferings of his later years. He also assisted the apostle in the establishment of all the major Christian communities and was entrusted with missions of highest importance. Timothy was with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul made his self-sacrificing companion bishop of Ephesus, but the finest monument left him by his master are the two canonical Epistles bearing his name.

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

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St. Titus

St. Titus, a pagan by birth, became one of St. Paul's most illustrious disciples. He accompanied the apostle on several of his missionary journeys and was entrusted with important missions. Finally he came with St. Paul to the island of Crete, where he was appointed bishop. He performed this duty in accordance with the admonition given him, ". . . in all things show yourself an example of good works" (Tit. 2:7).
Tradition tells us that he died a natural death at the age of 94, having lived in the state of virginity during his whole life. St. Paul left a worthy monument to Titus, his faithful disciple, in the beautiful pastoral letter which forms part of the New Testament. Today's feast in his honor was introduced in 1854.

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