Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Godcasting boom

~from Vatican Radio. Fr. Roderick of Daily Breakfast Podcast was interviewed about the impact of Catholic podcasting. Click here to listen.

Via Crucis Meditations 2007

~from Vatican Information Service

Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, prefect of the Ambrosian Library of Milan, Italy, will write the meditations for Good Friday's Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), which is due to be presided by the Holy Father on April 6 at the Colosseum in Rome.

Msgr. Ravasi, an expert in Bible and Hebrew studies, is professor of biblical exegesis at the Faculty of Theology of Northern Italy, and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Neocatechumenate reminded to follow liturgical norms

~from CWN

The Latin Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, has written a letter to members of the Neocatechumate Way, urging them to be faithful to liturgical norms.

“We are grateful for your presence in some of our parishes, for the proclamation of the Gospel and the aid which you bring to our faithful,” wrote the Patriarch to members of the lay movement, which has been active in the Holy Land for over 25 years.

However, Archbishop Sabbah reminded the Neocatechumenate members that they are required to follow the Church’s norms for the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy. “We are very attached to our liturgy and our traditions,” he wrote. “We beg you to understand and respect them.”

Questions and complaints about the distinctive liturgical practices of the Neocatechumenate Way came to a head in December 2005, when the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Francis Arinze, wrote to leaders of the lay movement insisting that they “follow the liturgical books approved by the Church, without omitting or adding anything."

Bishop Burbidge's homily at Mass for Homeschoolers

~Here's an excerpt of Bp. Burbidge's homily at the Mass he celebrated with the Homeschoolers of the Raleigh area (TORCH) held last Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes in Raleigh.
In the concluding blessing from the Rite of Baptism these words are addressed to the parents: "You will be the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith. May you always be the best of teachers." And then this prayer is offered on behalf of the parents, the newly baptized children and those present: "May He make you always, wherever you may be, faithful members of His holy people and send His peace upon all who are gathered here, in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Dear parents, you have taken seriously your role as the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith. You understand why the Second Vatican Council states, "It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught to have a knowledge of God, to worship Him and to love their neighbor." (Declaration on Christian Education, 1965, # 12) Thank you, parents, for your example of faithful married love and for giving the Church and our diocese the precious gift of family life, so well represented here today.

The words from the prophet Isaiah today highlight a serious responsibility you have as teachers: You must let the Light shine in the midst of darkness. More than ever in our modern world we are aware of the darkness: a lack of reverence for the sacredness of human life; a disregard for the call to purity and chastity; constant temptations and obstacles placed in our midst and a world where people so easily treat each other as enemies or strangers. And so, parents, you are obliged to make sure the darkness never overshadows the light of Christ within you and your children.

St. Ambrose Church of St. Louis

~Marcus of Rome of the West has posted photos of Saint Ambrose Church in the Italian "Hill" section of St. Louis.

There's a photo of an unusual devotional device, the ambulatory with saints' statues, and the beautiful nave and apse.

How did the church manage of escape the wreckovations?

Curial Lenten Retreat

~First meditation of the ongoing Lenten retreat held at Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace:

In the first Meditation after Matins, Caridinal Biffi recalled that the first Christian community worshipped the God of Israel as well as Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified and resurrected.

The Apostles, although they remained consistent and loyal to their native Jewish religion, also worshipped the son of Mary whom they recognized as the master of time and the center of everything. In this context, they saw Christianity as an extension of Judaism, born within the faith of Israel.

Biffi said the Apostles did not propose a new religion from what they were already practising. And yet, Christianity was an event without parallel in the history of mankind. It is not by chance, he said, that the entire Gospel connotes 'newness'.

The central and all-comprehensive fact was Christ's irruption into the world and His work of redemption. The Apostles had come up against a man who was unlike any other, who fit no known categories.

To all appearances. he was just like them. He cried, he rejoiced, he got tired. He had a native town and he had a family with tradition. But the apostles realized the world had not seen anything like Him.

After Easter and the Resurrection, they were forced to look back and re-read all the episodes of Christ's life. And they were forced to surrender, to admit that they had been with Someone who was infinitely above every being. The Gospel is filled with this state of wonder that the Apostles had .

Finally, Cardinal Biffi cited the Pauline hymn in Chapter I of Paul's letter to the Colossians, a most elevated meditation on the transcendent reality of Jesus Christ:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross, whether those on earth or those in heaven." (Col 1,15-20)

Italian Church exporting model to Spain

~from Chiesa by Sandro Magister

But there’s another more interesting fact. For some time, the Italian Church has no longer been a solitary exception among the Churches of Western Europe. Other bishops’ conferences look to it as a model, and imitate its actions. In Portugal, for example, the Church recently opposed forcefully a referendum for the complete liberalization of abortion: and the referendum, which was held last February 11, failed because of low voting participation.

But the most striking case of replicating the Italian model is taking place in Spain. There the bishops’ conference is carrying out a real and proper about-face, after years of divisions, uncertainties, and the absence of an authoritative guide. When with the government of the conservative José Maria Aznar the first signs appeared in Spain of the new laws on sensitive issues, the reactions from the episcopate were feeble. And when the secularist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero went into action with a whole slew of innovations, the Church followed these almost in a state of shock. But the shock also worked to stimulate a reaction. The first event that indicated a revival of initiative on the part of the Church was a large demonstration in Madrid, with a million and a half persons in the streets, and the bishops in the lead.

But in addition to this symbolic gesture, there are two joint documents that attest to the turnaround of the Spanish episcopate. They are two “pastoral instructions” discussed and voted on by all the bishops in 2006, the first released on March 30 and the second on November 23.


Two Benedict books out by Easter

~from Papa Ratzinger Forum

The first is Jesus of Nazareth and the second is a compilation of the lectures and discussions of the Ratzinger Schuelerkreise on Creation and Evolution held last summer at Castel Gandolfo.
In all likelihood, the book which puts together the lectures and discussions on creation and evolution at the Ratzinger Schuelerkreise seminar in Castel Gandolfo last September 1-2, will be published in time for Pope Benedict XVI's 80th birthday on April 16. With a contribution by the Pope himself.

It was the second reunion of ex-Professor Ratzinger's doctoral students (about 40 of them) held at Castel Gandolfo since he became Pope, but the reunions have been an annual summer event for more than 25 years now. It has always been held behind closed doors, and this is the first time that its proceedings are being made public.

Benedict chose the seminar topic in the middle of an ongoing debate in the United States between supporters of Darwin's theory of evolution and those who advocate 'intelligent design'. The debate is expected to peak with the approaching bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth in 2009.

Some who said they have talked to the Pope about it claim the decision to publish the acts of the seminar was prompted by this ongoing debate.

The seminar proceedings are conducted in German, and the book will come out in German with the title "Schoepfung und Evolution" (Creation and Evolution).

This year's Schuelerkreise seminar will reportedly tackle the subject again, because the Pope wishes to 'inspire theologians to make more profound investigations into such an important subject.

Circumcision of the heart

~by Bishop Aphraates (fourth-century Syriac writer, the "Persian Sage")

Law and covenant have been entirely changed. God changed the first pact with Adam, and gave a new one to Noah. He gave another to Abraham, and changed this to give a new one to Moses. When the covenant with Moses was no longer observed, he gave another pact in this last age, a pact never again to be changed.

He established a new law for Adam, that he could not eat of the tree of life. He gave to Noah the sign of the rainbow in the clouds. He then gave Abraham, chosen for his faith, the mark and seal of circumcision for his descendants. Moses was given the Passover lamb, the propitiation for the people.

All these covenants were different from each other. Moreover, the circumcision that is approved by the giver of those covenants is the kind of spoken of by Jeremiah: Circumcise your hearts. If God’s pact with Abraham was firm, so also is this covenant firm and trustworthy, nor can any other law be laid down, whether it originates outside the law or among those subject to the law.
God gave Moses a law together with his prescriptions and precepts, and when it was no longer kept, he made the law and its precepts of no avail. He promised a new covenant, different from the first, though the giver of both is one and the same. This is the covenant that he promised: All shall know me from the least to the greatest. In this covenant there is no longer any circumcision of the flesh, any seal upon the people.

We know, dearly beloved, that God established different laws in different generations which were in force as long as it pleased him. Afterward they were made obsolete. In the words of the apostle: In former times the kingdom of God existed in each generation under different signs.
Moreover, our God is truthful and his commandments are most trustworthy. Every covenant was proved firm and trustworthy in its own time, and those who have been circumcised in heart are brought to life and receive a second circumcision beside the true Jordan, the waters of baptism that bring forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, son of Nun, renewed the people’s circumcision with a knife of stone when he had crossed the Jordan with the Israelites. Jesus, our Saviour, renews the circumcision of the heart for the nations who have believed in him and are washed by baptism: circumcision by the sword of his word, sharper than any two-edged sword.

Jesus, son of Nun, led the people across the Jordan into the promised land. Jesus, our Saviour, has promised the land of the living to all who have crossed the true Jordan, and have believed and are circumcised in heart.

Blessed, then, are those who are circumcised in heart, and have been reborn in water through the second circumcision. They will receive their inheritance with Abraham, the faithful leader and father of all nations, for his faith was credited to him for righteousness.

Stational Church: Santa Maria Maggiore

Today's stational church is the Patriarchal Basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snows for the miraculous snow in summer.

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a fourth century Roman couple that was childless and had decided to leave their fortune to the Mother of God. She appeared to them in a dream and told them to build a church in her honor on the Esquiline Hill, promising a miracle to confirm her desire. The miracle came in a bizarre snowfall on August 5, 353 – the hottest month in Rome – that outlined the plan for her church on the Esquiline Hill. The Virgin has been invoked, since that time, as Our Lady of the Snow. After the Council of Ephesus in 431, which affirmed the title of Our Lady as Mother of God, Pope Sixtus III (432-440) erected the present basilica and dedicated it to the holy Mother of God. It was later called Saint Mary Major because it is the oldest church in the West dedicated to her honor.

As early as the seventh century, the crypt beneath the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was arranged as a reproduction of the cave in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The Christmas crib here is one of the finest in the world, dating to the thirteenth century. St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church and translator of the Bible into Latin in the fourth century, is buried in the crypt. Since he lived as a hermit next to the cave in Bethlehem, it was thought fitting to preserve his relics here, in the “Bethlehem of Rome.” St. Ignatius of Loyola offered his first Mass at the Cosmatesque altar in the crypt. The statue opposite the altar is by Bernini, depicting St. Cajetan holding the Holy Child. In a letter the saint wrote to a nun in Brescia, he explained that when he was once lost in prayer at this spot, the Holy Child climbed into his arms. Bernini himself is buried here in his family’s tomb, in the floor of the 13th-century chapel on the right-side of the church, near the door leading out of the church.

In the confessio, St. Matthias the Apostle is buried. He was the thirteenth Apostle, elected after Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. Above the altar in the confessio is a reliquary which holds five pieces of wood, said to be from the Santa Culla, the Holy Manger that held Christ in Bethlehem. The relics are displayed on the 25th of each month – but a group of pilgrims can always ask the sacristan to see them at other times. Also contained in this church is the famous icon of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani, in the seventeenth-century Pauline Chapel., and one of the oldest Christian mosaics in a church in Rome (432-440) above the ancient nave columns made from Athenian marble. Finally, the relics of Pope St. Pius V are in the large chapel to the right.

In August, white rose petals are dropped from the ceiling to commemorate the miracle of snows. The obelisk behind the apse is in the same axis as the obelisk at St. John Lateran. The facade contains a large mosaic above the portico which simulates an outdoor apse and turns the piazza into an open air church during the pilgrim procession of the Feast of the Assumption.

[Our place in Rome was around the corner from the Basilica. The bells tolling the time woke me in the mornings and the last bell ring told me it was lights out. I miss hearing the deep tolling sound.]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil–Martiny

~Lover of the Pierced Heart of Jesus from Vultus Christi

She belongs to the vast family of saints and blesseds surrounding the Wounded Side and Sacred Heart of Jesus. Marie's own spiritual genealogy included her great grand–aunt, the Venerable Anne–Madeleine Rémuzat (1696–1730), a Visitandine like Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690) and, like the saint of Paray–le–Monial, an ardent apostle of the Sacred Heart.

Marie Deluil Martiny was the first Zélatrice (or zealous apostle and promoter) of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart. So effective was her apostolate that she came to be known as the Zélatrice of the Sacred Heart.

She explains the movement in these words: "The Guard [of Honour of the Sacred Heart], the Work in itself, was placed by the Infinite Love of our Master at the entrance of the Wound of His Divine Heart. There, it calls souls, unites them, calls them together, preaches to them, if one may say so, pushes them, and draws them into the interior of the Divine Wound . . . it leads them there, and introduces them therein, after having, so to speak, opened to them the door of this sacred refuge . . . Souls, entering this safe abode are sprinkled, washed, whitened, purified, healed, and supernaturalized, by a most efficacious application of the Blood and Water that came forth from the Divine Wound.

But Jesus wants even more: this is the new step that Our Lord desires to make the souls He chosen to this end take: they must enter by the gate of the City of God, that is into the Heart of Jesus by the Divine Wound; therein will be their world, their dwelling, their place of rest."


Rising narcissism

~from MSNBC

Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

“We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as “If I ruled the world, it would be a better place,” “I think I am a special person” and “I can live my life any way I want to.”

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students’ NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

Twenge, the author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.

The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the “self-esteem movement” that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques” in preschool: “I am special, I am special. Look at me.”


Keynote speakers at Mahony's Religious Ed Conference

~Gerald has posted a list of this year's keynote speakers. There is a list of previous speakers. Not for the faint-hearted.

Church in Scotland may launch legal battle against same-sex adoptions requirements

~from CNA

The Catholic Church in Scotland is threatening to take legal action to block a new UK law which could force Catholic adoption agencies to close.

Homosexual couples were given adoption rights under Scottish Parliament last year, but ministers reassured the Catholic Church that Catholic agencies could remain exempt.

However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom recently passed an Equality Act which overrules the Scottish legislature’s assurances opens Catholic adoption agencies to prosecution if they refuse to adopt to couples on the grounds of their homosexual lifestyle.

The new legislation would make it illegal to discriminate against homosexual couples in the provision of any goods or services, including adoption.

The Catholic Church insists this would force them to close agencies, as it would be against their religious beliefs to place a child in a homosexual household, reported The Scotsman.

While England has denied the Catholic Church an exemption, some Scottish ministers were reportedly lobbying for a special exemption over the weekend. The Scottish Executive, however, insists that the legislation will go ahead as stated, without exemptions, and will give Catholic agencies two years to come into line with the law.

The Bishop's Conference in Scotland is now seeking legal advice on their rights and on a possible judicial review.

John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the question is whether the UK government is stepping over its competence by bringing into law regulations that do away with rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

“We are not even being allowed to follow our consciences in saying we think married couples provide a better home," he told The Scotsman.

Our Archbishop meets with homechooling families

~from What I Have Seen and Heard by Archbishop Wilton Gregory

Last Tuesday, I celebrated Mass with a group of home-school families and that was a sheer delight! Home-school families face many challenges, and yet they always seem to respond to those complications with Faith and ingenuity. I am pleased to support families who choose home schooling as an educational option even though I know that many families simply cannot follow that path in educating their children.

The dominant reason that most families home school is so that the parents can have quality time with their kids and a hands-on involvement in the education of their children. So for those who are able to and who are so inclined to engage in this form of teaching and forming their children, I offer a word of best wishes, and of course I assure them of my prayers. Both here in Atlanta and in the Diocese of Belleville, I have always found our home-schooled kids to be bright, energetic, self-assured and socially well-adjusted. Our home-school families are finding ways to connect with each other and to share their triumphs and tragedies. The only drawback to home schooling seems to be the lack of “snow days!”

Abuse Victims Demand More Than a Check From the Church

~from Washington Post

Across the country, victims of sexual abuse by priests are becoming more assertive in demanding compensation other than money. Church officials, reeling from an estimated $1.5 billion in settlements and other costs related to the sex abuse scandal, are often willing to oblige.

"The most valuable benefit from these lawsuits for the victims is that the world validates that it happened, and it wasn't their fault," said Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law in New York who has advised victims. "That's usually more important to them than money, and they're becoming more innovative about getting it."

In January, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., reached a settlement with more than 100 victims that calls for payments of at least $48 million. But their attorney, Tim Kosnoff, said the victims had insisted that the first order of business was a list of nonfinancial items.

"We said: 'We're not going to negotiate any number with you, ever, unless you agree to these non-monetary demands. And we wrote them in such a way that they were quite unusual, revolutionary, drastic by Catholic Church standards," Kosnoff said.

Among the conditions agreed to by Skylstad is that each of the Spokane victims will be given a chance to speak publicly in the parish where he or she was abused. If they prefer, victims can publish the stories of their abuse in the diocesan newspaper.

Skylstad, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also will send a letter of apology to each victim and "will publicly support a complete elimination of all criminal statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse," according to the settlement, which is under review by a bankruptcy court because the diocese has filed for Chapter 11 protection.

One of the Spokane victims, Mark Mains, 44, said he is eager to speak in his old parish, particularly because of a recent experience addressing a gathering of Spokane Catholics.


Jesuits "Certain" About Superior's Exit in '08

~clarification about Fr. Kolvenbach's stepping down.

spokesman for the Society of Jesus said it is "morally certain" that the upcoming general congregation will formally approve Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach's request to step down as superior general.

Father Kolvenbach received Benedict XVI's approval for his proposed resignation next year, though the Jesuit Constitution stipulates that the superior-general position is for life.

The Dutch-born Father Kolvenbach cited his age -- he will turn 80 in 2008 -- and his 25-year tenure as the superior of the Jesuits as reasons for his resignation.

In the wake of recent media reports, Father José de Vera, director of the Jesuits' information office, clarified the situation.

"A few months ago Father Kolvenbach obtained the Pope's permission to present his resignation," Father de Vera explained in a statement sent to ZENIT. "He will do so in the next general congregation which he has convoked for January 2008."

"Theoretically the congregation could reject the proposal of resignation presented by Father Kolvenbach," the Jesuit spokesman said. "Resignation from the office of superior general has no effect if it is not agreed to by the Society in general congregation.

"[P]ractically speaking, this will not happen because the superior-general has followed to the letter the process established for the case of resignation."

The Society of Jesus had recently asked the Pope if the organization's rule that superiors-general have a life term in their office should continue in force.

According to Father de Vera, the Holy Father chose to maintain the stipulation. This does not discard the possibility, the Jesuit added, that, "in special cases and after previous consultation with the Pope," the superior general "can present his resignation to the general congregation."

Lenten retreat focuses on sense of sin

~from Zenit

To acknowledge one's own sin is to rediscover the profound joy of God's forgiveness, says the director of the weeklong spiritual retreat being attended by Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message today, the first full day of the Spiritual Exercises. The Pope and his aides in the Roman Curia began the retreat on Sunday afternoon.

The retreat, being held in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, finishes Saturday.

According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Biffi in the first meditation this morning reflected on the main tenets of Lent: conversion, that is, the sense of sin and repentance.

The Lenten liturgy, he said, is characterized by a phrase that represents the beginning of Jesus' public proclamation: "Repent and believe in the Gospel."

Not if, but what

Cardinal Biffi said that this is not a time in which the believer examines if there is something to change in himself, but rather sees what he must change. And conversion begins with the heart, through interior repentance, on the condition that the disciple firmly deplores his faults, the preacher added.

Thus, the believer has the certainty of divine mercy, and so repentance leads necessarily to profound joy, the 78-year-old cardinal explained.

According to Cardinal Biffi, today it is said there is no repentance because the sense of sin has been lost. However, he added, this is not totally true, since the era is characterized by the constant denunciation of sin in the media and in courts.

This means that the sense of sin exists -- but the sense of sin that others commit, the cardinal said.

He said the repentance that saves is that which recognizes one's own errors; to move away from one's faults is to come closer to God as he is the antithesis of evil.

Lent and Lectio Divina

~Don Marco writes about making more time for lectio divina during Lent:
One Mind

We ask God that this one mind of ours — the expression of our unity in the Holy Spirit — may glow with desire. That, to me, is a fascinating image: a mind glowing with desire, pulsating with light. When we hear the term “mind” in liturgical prayers, it most often translates the Latin “mens” which means not just understanding, reason, intellect, and judgment, but also soul and spirit. It refers to all our spiritual faculties. It also refers to a shared preference, to a common focus. Try to visualize the picture today’s Collect gives us: a Church, a monastery, a community, having one single mind, and that one mind is glowing with desire for God. That is the most fundamental apostolate, the essential witness. Everything else we do is secondary.


What do we mean when we refer to the chastening of our mind by moderation in bodily things? To chasten can mean to punish, to castigate. It also means to make chaste, that is, to refine, simplify, purify, and direct toward one thing alone, and that, I think, is the sense of the word in today’s collect. Moderation in bodily things — food, drink, sleep, talk, and entertainment — helps our minds, our spiritual faculties, to focus on the essential, on what Jesus, addressing Martha in the house of Bethany, called “the one thing necessary” (Lk 10:42). The chastened mind, “seeking first the kingdom” (Mt 6:33), “seeking the face of the Lord” (Ps 26:8-9), begins to glow with desire in the sight of God. “Let your light shine before others,” says Jesus (Mt 5:16).

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

On Ascension Day, 1920, Pope Benedict XV bestowed the honors of sainthood on a youth who is rightly called the Aloysius of the 19th century. He was Francis Possenti, known in religion as Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother.
Born in Assisi, January 3, 1838, he was given the name of the city's illustrious patron, St. Francis, at baptism. As a student in neighboring Spoleto, he led a good though rather worldly kind of life until God drew him closer to Himself through an illness. The decisive step was taken while seeing the highly honored miraculous picture of our Lady in Spoleto borne about in solemn procession. As his eyes followed our Blessed Mother, Francis felt the fire of divine love rising in his heart and almost at once made the resolve to join the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ (1856).

After overcoming many difficulties, he carried out his resolution and received the religious name, Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Even as a novice, he was regarded as a model of perfect holiness both within and beyond the cloister.

Saint Gabriel did not stand out from his community in any extraordinary way — his heroism lay in his obedient attitude. He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life - only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary. Pius X and Leo XIII especially desired that he be the patron saint of young people and novices in religious orders, as their model in the interior life. He died in the year 1862.

Saint Gabriel Possenti wrote: "Love Mary!... She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity."

Stational Church: Sant'Anastasia

Sant’Anastasia is one of the original twenty-five parish churches, or tituli, of Rome. The ancient chronicles of this church relate that Saint Anastasia was the daughter of a noble Roman named Praetextatus and that she also had Saint Chrysogonus for her advisor. During the Diocletian persecution (284-305), she cared for the confessors in prison. When Chrysogonus left for Aquileia, she followed later to succor the Christians there. After a while, she was arrested and brought before the prefect of Illyrium at Sirmium (now Mitrowitz in Yugoslavia) and condemned to death. Having escaped death by starvation and abandonment at sea, through the intercession of Saint Theodota, Saint Anastasia was finally taken to the island of Parlarmia (304?) and burned alive, staked to the ground with her arms and legs outstretched while fire kindled about her. She has been venerated in Rome since the late-fifth century, when her name was placed in the Roman Canon of the Mass. From Sirmium in Pannonia, where her cult originated and her body was first venerated, her relics were translated first to Constantinople and then to Rome at the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century.
The titulus Anastasiae was built by the Roman foundress, Anastasia, on the site of her family mansion which lay at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Some think this Anastasia was a sister of Constantine the Great (emperor 306-337). The church rose in importance during the Byzantine period because of the cultus of Saint Anastasia by which it soon came to be known. In the seventh century, Saint Anastasia was listed immediately after the basilicas of the Lateran and Saint Mary Major. Also, in the same century, it became recognized as the “Collect” church where the crosses were kept to begin the Lenten Stations. Perhaps most importantly, this church is known as the traditional site of the second papal Mass of Christmas.

Beneath the church are subterranean chambers and passages communicating with the nearby imperial palaces of the Palatine. Under the high altar are the relics of Saints Fausta and Anastasia. Also in this church are the veil of Our Lady and the mantle of Saint Joseph, said to have been brought from Palestine by Saint Jerome. On the right side is an altar to St. Turibius, a Spanish priest and Bishop of Lima. Turibius baptized St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres, two of the most popular saints of South America. The altar on the left side of the church is very ancient – tradition tells us that St. Jerome celebrated Mass here and that St. Gregory distributed ashes here on Ash Wednesday. A chalice preserved in the church is said to have been used by St. Jerome.

He has given us life: he has also taught us how to pray

~by St. Cyprian

Dear brothers, the commands of the Gospel are nothing else than God’s lessons, the foundations on which to build up hope, the supports for strengthening faith, the food that nourishes the heart. They are the rudder for keeping us on the right course, the protection that keeps our salvation secure. As they instruct the receptive minds of believers on earth, they lead safely to the kingdom of heaven.

God willed that many things should be said by the prophets, his servants, and listened to by his people. How much greater are the things spoken by the Son. These are now witnessed to by the very Word of God who spoke through the prophets. The Word of God does not now command us to prepare the way for his coming: he comes in person and opens up the way for us and directs us toward it. Before, we wandered in the darkness of death, aimlessly and blindly. Now we are enlightened by the light of grace, and are to keep to the highway of life, with the Lord to precede and direct us.

The Lord has given us many counsels and commandments to help us toward salvation. He has even given us a pattern of prayer, instructing us on how we are to pray. He has given us life, and with his accustomed generosity, he has also taught us how to pray. He has made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son.

He had already foretold that the hour was coming when true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. He fulfilled what he had promised before, so that we who have received the spirit and the truth through the holiness he has given us may worship in truth and in the spirit through the prayer he has taught.

What prayer could be more a prayer in the spirit than the one given us by Christ, by whom the Holy Spirit was sent upon us? What prayer could be more a prayer in the truth than the one spoken by the lips of the Son, who is truth himself? It follows that to pray in any other way than the Son has taught us is not only the result of ignorance but of sin. He himself has commanded it, and has said: You reject the command of God, to set up your own tradition.

So, my brothers, let us pray as God our master has taught us. To ask the Father in words his Son has given us, to let him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognise the words of his Son. Let the Son who lives in our hearts be also on our lips. We have him as an advocate for sinners before the Father; when we ask forgiveness for our sins, let us use the words given by our advocate. He tells us: Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. What more effective prayer could we then make in the name of Christ than in the words of his own prayer?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Enthusiastic Catholics clamor for Mass of past

~from The Baltimore Sun (hat tip to TNLM)

Dozens of people gather every Sunday morning in the Gothic sanctuary of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church to pray for the future of a tradition that's deeply rooted in the past.

Before the Latin prayers begin, they seek God's intercession for the future of the Tridentine Mass - a form of liturgy established in the 16th century but now celebrated only in churches with special permission.

If the speculation around the Vatican is right, their prayers might be answered. Rumors have swirled for months that Pope Benedict XVI will formally grant permission to all Catholic churches to perform what's commonly - though incorrectly - known as the Latin Mass.

For Catholics who are dedicated to the handful of local services, such a declaration would be about time. "I don't see the purpose in outlawing a Mass," says Elise Phair, 21, who has attended the Tridentine service at the church on Saratoga Street for about a decade.

The move - if it happens - is seen as a way of reaching out to traditionalists who were alienated after the Second Vatican Council produced a new missal, or prayer book, in the late 1960s that streamlined the Mass.

"Identifying with the Tridentine Mass is a kind of a mild form of protest," says Mathew N. Schmalz, a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross. "A lot of it has to do with a more aggressive assertion of Catholic identity and a feeling that that has been lost."

During Vatican II, the leaders of the council established what is known as the novus ordo - new order in Latin - which is followed in the vast majority of Catholic churches today.

Aesthetic differences between the two services are obvious. The Tridentine Mass, which uses a 1962 missal, is mostly spoken in Latin, with some Greek. The priest faces the tabernacle housing the Eucharist, with his back to the congregation. Much of the Mass is silent, even the High Masses every other Sunday, which feature choirs.

To be sure, the nearby Basilica of the Assumption does offer a Sunday Mass in Latin - but it's merely a translation of the novus ordo, not the full Tridentine Mass.

While the overall structure of both Masses is the same, the Novus Ordo simplifies the service by reducing the number of prayers and ceremonial actions, says Joanne M. Pierce, an associate professor of religious studies at Holy Cross who researches medieval liturgy. The Tridentine rite even specifies the orientation of the priest's thumbs as he elevates the Eucharist during the liturgy.

Parishioners can follow along in a missal, perhaps with a Latin translation, recite the rosary, or engage in their own private devotions during the Tridentine Mass. By contrast, in the Novus Ordo, the congregation participates through responses and reading.

Although the council decrees did not abolish the Tridentine Mass, Pierce says there may have been fear that some Catholics would consider the Tridentine rite as the only true Mass.

The church began giving indults, or special permission, to some parishes to celebrate the Tridentine rite in 1984. Four years later, Pope John Paul II issued a motu proprio allowing more churches to use that version "out of respect ... for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition."

The Catholic Church often faces criticism from those who oppose its conservative views on topics such as abortion and birth control, but some feel it is not conservative enough. Pope John Paul II's 1988 decree began by excommunicating some members of schismatic communities that supported the Tridentine rite.

"It all plays out in internal church politics. The pope is being caught between a rock and a hard place. Trying to balance all these sensibilities is very difficult," Schmalz says.


Foundling Wheel

~Zadok posted this today from The Telegraph
A Rome hospital that reintroduced a modern version of the medieval foundling wheel, following a spate of abandoned babies, has had its first "deposit".

The device allows women to leave their new-born children in hospital instead of abandoning them in telephone boxes or on doorsteps or, in an extreme case, killing them.

The original wheels were a cylindrical hatch set in the outside wall of a church. Mothers would place their baby in the hatch, close it and then ring a bell to warn the priest or nuns.
The system has been brought up to date with a heated soft bed complete with sensors and cameras to alert staff when a baby has been abandoned.

The wheel, installed at the Policlinico Casilino last year, was used for the first time late on Saturday night, when a three-month-old boy was left there.

The 14lb boy was named Stefano after the doctor who first treated him.

Film on Jesus' family burial ground just hype

~from CNA

An Israeli archeologist says a new documentary film, which claims that a burial cave uncovered 27 years ago in Talpiot, Jerusalem, is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family, is just hype.

Professor Amos Kloner, the internationally renowned archeologist who revealed the findings of the dig 10 years ago, criticized the filmmakers' marketing strategy and said it is not based on proof, reported the Jerusalem Post.

Kloner said a similar film was released 11 years ago, and the new film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, is simply a renewed effort to create controversy in order to make a profit.

Kloner found 10 ossuaries in a cave in 1980 but only released his findings 10 years ago. Nine of the tombs remain. Six bear inscriptions identifying them as those of Jesus, his mother Mary, a second Mary, and relatives Matthew, Josa and Judah.

The names inscribed on the coffins were very common in the Second Temple era and are not sufficient proof that the cave was the burial site of Jesus' family, Kloner reportedly said. He added that "Jesus son of Joseph" inscriptions had been found on several other ossuaries over the years.

"There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," Kloner told the Jerusalem Post. "They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the 1st century CE [AD]."

The film took three years to make and it is expected to premiere at a New York press conference today. The filmmaker is Israeli-born, Canadian-based filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici. Award-winning director James Cameron is the project’s executive producer.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has loaned out two of the ossuaries, the ones the filmmakers claim belonged to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, for display at Monday's press conference. Kloner reportedly said the IAA was "very foolish" to agree to the loan.

“This has been a three-year journey that seems more incredible than fiction," said Jacobovici in a press release. "The idea of possibly finding the tomb of Jesus and several members of his family, with compelling scientific evidence, is beyond anything I could have imagined."

"It doesn't get bigger than this," said Cameron in the press statement. "We've done our homework; we've made the case; and now it's time for the debate to begin."

The film will be broadcast on the international Discovery Channel on March 4, as well as on Britain's Channel 4, Canada’s VisionTV and Israel’s Channel 8.

Yeah, James...that's a real whopper! Trying to top Titanic is a real hardship, isn't it?

Empty fonts

What is with the empty fonts this year? Last year and the year before, our font wasn't emptied until Holy Week. This year, it began at Ash Wednesday. Did I miss a directive?

People at my parish dip their fingers into the empty font and cross themselves anyway. The children even do a stirring motion, as if doing so would conjure up water.

A friend said that his parish has put polished stones in the empty font. What has your parish done with respect to your font?

Here's the CDW notice from 2000, signed by Mons. Mariop Marini.
Prot. N. 569/00/L

March 14, 2000

Dear Father:

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.

2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Mons. Mario Marini

Lenten Super Store

...for all your Lenten shopping needs. From The Curt Jester:

Faultfinding binoculars $79.99

Are you in the habit of fault watching? Where you watch others and catalog their faults like the most obsessive detail-oriented bird watcher?

Then you need the Inward Binoculars. Instead of training your eyes on others these Binoculars focus inward to reveal your faults. First start at the lowest magnification levels since it is more than likely your faults will be easily seen at this level. As you progress in the spiritual life you can increase the magnification. The fault comparison algorithm is not computed on others compared to yourself, but yourself compared to Jesus. The inward binoculars work best when you keep your eyes on Jesus.

Check out some of the merchandise. Personally, I might consider the Sacred Heart monitor. It's a little pricey, but hey, what price can you put on your immortal soul.

The Desert: To Follow Jesus

~from the book Journey to Easter by Pope Benedict XVI

Let us reflect a little on what is meant by “the desert.”

First, the desert is the place of silence, of solitude. It is the absence of the exchanges of daily life, its noise and its superficiality. The desert is the place of the absolute, the place of freedom, which sets man before the ultimate demands. Not by chance is the desert the place where monotheism began. In that sense it is a place of grace. In putting aside all preoccupations man encounters his Creator.

Great things have their beginnings in the desert, in silence, in poverty. It is not possible to share in the mission of Jesus, in the mission of the Gospel, without sharing in the desert experience, its poverty, its hunger. That beautiful hunger for justice of which the lord speaks in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be born in the fullness of satiety...And let us not forget that for Jesus the desert did not end with those forty days. His final, extreme, desert was to be that of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And from that desert sprang up the waters of the life of the world.

Second, the desert is also the place of death: there is no water there, the basic element for life. And so this place, with its harsh burning light, appears to be the extreme opposite of life, a dangerous threatening waste. In the Old Testament, silence is an element of death; man as a person lives by love, lives by relationships, and precisely thus is in the image of the Trinitarian God, whose persons are relations subsistenses, a pure act of the loving relationship of love.

Next the desert is not only the region which threatens biological life, it is also the place of temptation, the place where the power of the devil is manifested, the “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Entering into the desert, Jesus exposes himself to this power, opposes himself to this power, continues the action of his baptism, the action of the Incarnation, descending not only into the depths of the waters of the Jordan, but descending moreover into the depths of human misery — as far as the region of broken love, of destroyed relationships, in that solitude to be found throughout the world marked by sin. A theologian of the fifth century said Jesus descended into hell when he went before Caiaphas...How many times does Jesus not go before Caiaphas — still today! And so we may meditate on what it means to “follow Jesus.”

On the other hand this descent of Jesus into solitude expresses the infinite love of God and confirms the marvelous words of Psalm 139, “If I ascend to the heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there” (v. 8).

Finally, by entering into the desert, Jesus enters also into the history of the salvation of his people, the chosen people. This history begins with the going out from Egypt, with the forty years of wandering in the desert; at the heart of these forty years we find the forty days of Moses on the mount, the days of being face-to-face with God, days of absolute fast, days away from his people in the solitude of the cloud, on the top of the mountain; from these days flows the fountain of revelation. Again, we find the forty days in the life of Elijah who — persecuted by King Ahab — went forty days’ journey into the desert, so returning to the starting point of the covenant, to God’s voice speaking and a new beginning in the history of salvation.

Jesus enters into this history, into the temptations of his people, into the temptations of Moses, even as Moses offered the sacred exchange: to be blotted out of the book of life for the salvation for the salvation of his people. So Jesus will be the Lamb of God, who carries the sins of the world, the true Moses, who is truly “in the bosom of the Father,” face-to-face with him and revealing him. He is truly the fountain of living water in the desert of the world, he who not only speaks but is the word of life: way, truth, and life. From on high on the Cross he gives us the new covenant. The true Moses, at the Resurrection he enters into the Promised Land, closed to Moses, and with the key of the Cross opens to us the gateway to that Promised Land.

So Jesus sums up the whole history of Israel. This history of his history: Moses and Elijah not only speak to him but of him. To be converted to the Lord is also to enter into the history of salvation, returning with Jesus to the beginnings on Sinai, taking part in the journeys of Moses and of Elijah, which is the road to God and to Jesus, as Gregory of Nyssa has described it in his Ascent of Moses.

Another element seems to me important, however. Jesus goes into the desert to be tempted, to share in the temptations of his people and of the world, to bear our misery, to conquer the foe and so to open the way for us to the Promised Land. It seems to me that all of this belongs in a particular manner to the office of the priest: to be exposed in the front line to the temptations and necessities of any given time, to suffer the sufferings of faith at a given time with others and for others. If at a certain period philosophy, science, political power create obstacles to the faith, it is to be expected that priests and religious should feel it even before lay folk. In the firmness and the suffering of their own faith and their own prayer they ought to construct the way of the lord in the new desert of history. The journeys of Moses and Elijah are always being repeated, and so human life always enters anew the unique way and the unique history of the Lord Jesus.

Spiritual Exercises for the Curia

~Last evening, the Spiritual Exercises began with the Holy Father attending. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna will lead the week-long retreat. The theme is "Things Above" from St. Paul's exhortation to set our minds on things above and not here on earth. So not much news will be coming from the Vatican until after March 3rd.

Let us show each other God's generosity

~by St. Gregory Naziazen

Recognise to whom you owe the fact that you exist, that you breathe, that you understand, that you are wise, and, above all, that you know God and hope for the kingdom of heaven and the vision of glory, now darkly as in a mirror but then with greater fullness and purity. You have been made a son of God, co-heir with Christ. Where did you get all this, and from whom?

Let me turn to what is of less importance: the visible world around us. What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with the art of husbandry, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the easy familiarity of kinship?

Who has given you dominion over animals, those that are tame and those that provide you with food? Who has made you lord and master of everything on earth? In short, who has endowed you with all that makes man superior to all other living creatures?

Is it not God who asks you now in your turn to show yourself generous above all other creatures and for the sake of all other creatures? Because we have received from him so many wonderful gifts, will we not be ashamed to refuse him this one thing only, our generosity? Though he is God and Lord he is not afraid to be known as our Father. Shall we for our part repudiate those who are our kith and kin?

Brethren and friends, let us never allow ourselves to misuse what has been given us by God’s gift. If we do, we shall hear Saint Peter say: Be ashamed of yourselves for holding on to what belongs to someone else. Resolve to imitate God’s justice, and no one will be poor. Let us not labour to heap up and hoard riches while others remain in need. If we do, the prophet Amos will speak out against us with sharp and threatening words: Come now, you that say: When will the new moon be over, so that we may start selling? When will the sabbath be over, so that we may start opening our treasures?

Let us put into practise the supreme and primary law of God. He sends down rain on just and sinful alike, and causes the sun to rise on all without distinction. To all earth’s creatures he has given the broad earth, the springs, the rivers and the forests. He has given the air to the birds, and the waters to those who live in the water. He has given abundantly to all the basic needs of life, not as a private possession, not restricted by law, not divided by boundaries, but as common to all, amply and in rich measure. His gifts are not deficient in any way, because he wanted to give equality of blessing to equality of worth, and to show the abundance of his generosity.

Stational Church: San Pietro in Vincoli

Today's stational church is the ancient basilica dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle, San Pietro in Vincoli or St. Peter in Chains found on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.

The chains which bound Saint Peter in the Mamertine prison are said to have been found by Saint Balbina, the daughter of the man later known as Saint Quirinus, who was Saint Peter’s jailer and converted by him there. Tradition says that in 109 Theodora, a pious Roman lady (who was a sister of Hermes, a prefect of Rome) built a chapel on the Esquiline Hill as a shrine for the chains. Both Theodora and Hermes were converted by Pope Saint Alexander I (105-115). In the subscriptions of the Council of Ephesus (431) the priest Philip (legate of Pope St. Celestine I) is named the titular of this church, then known as the basilica apostolorum in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul. In 436 Eudocia, wife of the Emperor of the East (Theodosius II, 408-450), received the chains which bound St. Peter in Jerusalem as a gift from Juvenal, the bishop of Jerusalem. She sent part these chains to her daughter in Rome, Eudoxia Zicinia, who was wife of Emperor Valentinian III. When Peter’s chains from Jerusalem and those from Rome were placed together for the first time, it is said, they miraculously united together to form the one chain that is preserved here. The event is commemorated in the ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Parodi, painted in 1706. The name “Saint Peter in Chains” first appears in the time of Summachus (498-514), and by the eleventh century this name became the customary reference to the basilica, which has been today’s station since the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604). The basilica is cared for by the Canons Regular of the Congregation of the Most Holy Savior (Lateran Canons).

The twenty-two ancient columns are Doric in style, a rare architectural form in Roman churches. Tradition tells us that they were taken from the court basilica where Peter was condemned to death. Their style suggests that the columns were originally in a Greek temple.

The chains themselves are found in the confessio at the high altar. Also of interest here is Michelangelo’s famous Moses sculpted around 1545, part of the unfinished tomb of Pope Julius II (1503-1513). The horns on the head of Moses are the result of a misunderstanding; the Hebrew text says that “a radiance shone about his face” when he came down from Mount Sinai, but the Latin translation could be interpreted as saying that he had horns. From the right angle, and in good light, you can see portraits of Michelangelo and Julius II in Moses’ beard. It is said that the Jewish people of Rome came here in great numbers to venerate the statue when it was erected. Also note the fourth-century sarcophagus of the Maccabee brothers, found in 1876 under the high altar, which commemorates the seven Jewish heroes who died in war to protect the Mosaic Law. Their relics were translated here by Pope Pelagius (556-561). Other relics include those of Saints Aurelius, Emerziana, and Constanza.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Heavenly game: Vatican tourney kicks off

Seminarians of Mater Ecclesiae team, with blue t-shirts, and of the Gregoriana team challenge for the ball during the inaugural 2007 Clericus Cup soccer competition for priests and seminarians, at the Rome's 'St. Peter's Sporting Center', Saturday, Feb. 24, 2007. The competition was launched by an Italian Christian sporting organisation in a bid to promote a sporting culture in the Church. The teams are likely to be made up of trainee priests, who are studying at the various pontifical universities in Rome. 16 teams, fielding 311 athletes from countries including the United States, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and Rwanda, will take part in the tournament and the final will take place in Rome in June. In background is the Dome of Vatican 's St. Peter's Basilica. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

~from AP via Yahoo

The fans were pious. The players bound for glory. And the victory? A miracle. Priests and seminarians from several soccer-loving countries took to a field near the looming dome of St. Peter's Basilica Saturday for the first match of the Clericus Cup, a tournament fielding 16 teams from Catholic institutes in Rome.

"You are playing in view of St. Peter's cupola, so behave well," admonished Cardinal Pio Laghi before giving the official kickoff at a small arena on a hill overlooking the

In Italy soccer is a hallowed game, taken almost as seriously as Catholicism, and the players were all business once the whistle was blown.

Amid screams from the coaches, pious slogans from the small crowd and T-shirts invoking the protection of the Virgin Mary, a motley crew of Latin Americans, Africans and Asians from the Collegio Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church College) took on an all-Brazilian team fielded by the Gregorian University.

In a miraculous upset, the young Mater Ecclesiae players trounced the more experienced but portly Brazilians 6-0 as their fans chanted: "The Mother of the Church wants a goal!"

The game had its share of hard tackles and rough play, with the first goal coming from a penalty kick — the second in the match.

Still, in the end it was all handshakes and smiles between the teams, in what officials and players hope will set a good example for Italian professional soccer, which has been recently marred by fan violence and scandal.

The Clericus Cup should "reaffirm the educational and pastoral value of sport," and "strengthen feelings of true friendship and fruitful sharing," said a message from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's No. 2 official.

Even as Italy's national team was making its successful run for the World Cup last summer, club soccer at home was ravaged by a match-fixing scandal that led to sanctions against several top teams.

Earlier this month, rioting at a game in Sicily caused the death of a policeman and forced authorities to bar fans from many stadiums.

"We have lost but we are all laughing, and this shows that sport should be a joy for all," said Reginei Jose Modolo, a 32-year-old midfielder on the Gregorian University team. On the field, he goes by the name of "Zico," a Brazilian soccer star.

The tournament is also a second chance for many clergymen who left promising soccer careers to follow their spiritual calling, said Marco Rosales, a Mexican seminarian who coaches the Mater Ecclesiae team.

"Some on the team had a chance to play professionally, but the Lord called them to His team," he said.

The Clericus Cup will run through June, with the 16 teams fielding 311 athletes from countries including Italy, the United States, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Rwanda.

Vatican Mean Time

~from CNS: Geographers use GPS to mark Italy's prime meridian in Vatican Gardens

Although the Global Positioning System has made meridians obsolete in mapmaking, a group of geographers used the GPS to mark the exact spot where the old prime meridian of Italy passed through the Vatican.

Standing at the end of a technologically guaranteed straight line of flower pots, the geographers and Vatican officials dedicated a plaque marking the spot in the Vatican Gardens Feb. 23.

A prime meridian is an arbitrarily determined line running around the globe from north to south; it is used to determine longitude as well as time zones. Although an international agreement was reached in 1880 recognizing the meridian in Greenwich, England, as the prime meridian, Italian government maps continued to use the Italian prime until the 1940s.

In 2004, a group of Italian geographers and historians began a project to commemorate the Italian meridian by marking it in the Vatican Gardens and in several parks around Rome.

At the brief Vatican ceremony, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, head of the office governing Vatican City State, told the scholars, "Forgive me if I end by preaching, but I am just a priest and not a scientist."

The meridian may be obsolete, he said, but everyone needs a point of reference for his or her life's journey.

In Jesus, he said, "we have a star from which we can determine our meridian with certainty for a safe voyage."

Angelus: Let us look at Christ pierced by our sins

AP Photo/Plinio Lepri

~from Asia News

A few hours before the start of spiritual exercises in the Vatican, the Pope urged pilgrims in St Peter’s Square to enter “the time of Lent by looking straight at the ribs of Jesus.” In doing so he restated the theme he mentioned in his Lent message titled They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.

In mentioning his encyclical Deus caritas est the Pope stressed the importance of “looking”. He said that it is only by looking at Jesus who died on the Cross that can one know that “God is love”. “In this contemplation,” the Pontiff said, “the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move (Deus caritas est, 12). Contemplating the Crucifix with the eyes of faith, we can deeply understand what sin is, how tragic its gravity is and at the same time how incommensurable is the power of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.”

The lance that pierced Christ’s ribs is witnessed in the Gospel of John. “That act carried out by an unknown Roman soldier,” Benedict XVI explained, “bound to be forgotten, was engraved in the eyes and heart of the Apostle who mentioned it in the Gospel. How many conversions have taken place over the centuries because of this eloquent message of love that those who look on the Crucified Jesus receive.”

“In these days of Lent,” the Pope added, “let us not remove our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and high spirituality. By looking at Christ, let us feel that He is looking at us. The one we have pierced with out sins never tires to pour onto the world a boundless stream of merciful love. May humanity understand that it is only from this source that we can draw the indispensable spiritual energy to build the peace and happiness that each human being endlessly seeks.”

“Let us call on the Virgin Mary,” the Pope said by way of conclusion, “whose soul was pierced near Her Son’s cross, to help gain a firm faith. Guiding us on the Lenten path, may she help us put aside all that distracts us from listening to Christ and his word of salvation.”

And it is in Her the Pope entrusted the spiritual exercises which Card Giacomo Biffi will preach in the Vatican starting today till Saturday morning March 3 with the Pontiff’s and Roman Curia’s participation.

The archbishop emeritus of Bologna Mgr Biffi, a brilliant and wise scholar, will preach on the subject Look for things above, where Christ sits on the right side of God; think about things above, not about those on earth.

“I call on you,” said Benedict XVI, “to accompany us with your prayer, which I gladly shall return by way of meditation, invoking the divine power for each one of us, your families and communities.”

Stational Church: San Giovanni in Laterano

Today's stational church is San Giovanni in Laterano, or St. John Lateran, dedicated to Our Savior and to Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. It is the Mother Church of the world, the church of the Bishop of Rome, and the Cathedral of Rome.

The solemn liturgical inauguration of Lent happens here today and is known as a Patriarchal Basilica of which there are five in Rome. In the early part of the fourth century, Constantine (emperor 306-337) gave Pope Melchiades (311-314) a parcel of imperial property, together with its buildings, for a church and papal residence. The property was known as “Lateran” since it had previously belonged to Plautius Lateranus. Melchiades may have begun the building, but Sylvester I (314-335) completed it and converted it into a basilica, which he consecrated in 324 and dedicated to the Holy Savior, naming it Basilica Salvatoris. Through sackings, fires, and earthquakes, the basilica has been restored and rebuilt many times throughout the centuries. In the tenth century it was dedicated to St. John the Baptist (who was already patron of the ancient baptistery) and in the twelfth century St. John the Evangelist was added as co-patron. The modern-day interior dates primarily to the seventeenth century and bears the unmistakable mark of Francesco Borromini.

Five Ecumenical Councils were held in the Lateran, and Popes resided here for a thousand years, from the fourth to the fourteenth century. Upon their return from Avignon in 1377, however, they converted the Vatican into their usual residence. Excavations (1934-1938) beneath the basilica uncovered remains of Christian and pagan buildings, portions of paved streets, and the foundations of the fourth-century Constantinian basilica.

Not to be missed, even on a first visit, are the “Last Supper” table that Our Lord used, now enshrined in the Blessed Sacrament altar; the wooden altar that Saint Peter and the first popes used, now in the papal altar; and the heads of Saints Peter and Paul behind the grill above the papal altar in two silver-gilded busts. Down the nave are magnificent statues of the twelve apostles and, above them, relief panels depicting Old Testament scenes on the left and corresponding scenes from the New Testament on the right.

Outside, the right-hand door into the church is the famous Holy Door, opened only during Holy Years. The piazza’s obelisk came from the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis in ancient Egypt and is 3500 years old. Consider this: while St. Peter might have seen the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square, Moses might have seen this one! Around the back of the basilica is the fourth-century baptistery, the first of its kind in Rome, commissioned by the Emperor Constantine himself, and across the street is the Scala Santa, the staircase from Pilate’s house in Jerusalem which Christ climbed before His Passion. Pilgrims climb its twenty-eight wood-encased steps on their knees while contemplating the atoning suffering and death of Our Lord.

This ancient basilica was intended by Constantine and the early popes to be considered the first and mother of all churches in Christendom. Between the exterior portico and loggia is a running medieval inscription from the earlier façade which attests to this privilege: omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput, that is, “Mother and Head of all the Churches of the City and of the World.” The church continues to enjoy this privilege, reflected in a universal liturgical feast on November 9, which commemorates the church’s dedication.

The high altar

The cloisters

In Christ we suffered temptation, and in him we overcame the Devil

~by St. Augustine

Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer. Who is speaking? An individual, it seems. See if it is an individual: I cried out to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in anguish. Now it is no longer one person; rather, it is one in the sense that Christ is one, and we are all his members. What single individual can cry from the ends of the earth? The one who cries from the ends of the earth is none other than the Son’s inheritance. It was said to him: Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession. This possession of Christ, this inheritance of Christ, this body of Christ, this one Church of Christ, this unity that we are, cries from the ends of the earth. What does it cry? What I said before: Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer; I cried out to you from the ends of the earth.’ That is, I made this cry to you from the ends of the earth; that is, on all sides.

Why did I make this cry? While my heart was in anguish. The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations of the earth in a condition, not of exalted glory but of severe trial.
Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.

The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.

He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.

If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The man who made Byrd live

~from The Telegraph

On Ash Wednesday this week I noticed that several churches with good choirs sang a motet by William Byrd called Emendemus in melius ("Let us change for the better"). Byrd (1540-1623) is one of those astounding composers whom England throws up every now and then, and I am glad that, 100 years ago, The Daily Telegraph played a large part in popularising his music.

Most of Byrd's work was unheard for nearly 300 years. With our handy home sound systems we might now forget how easy it was for a composer's music to go unperformed. In the 18th century, three anthems by Byrd were printed by William Boyce and sung in cathedrals, but his Latin motets alone had run into hundreds.

For centuries there was no suitable occasion to sing any of Byrd's polyphonic Masses, and in any case they were preserved only in obscure manuscripts. It was thought that the Mass for Four Voices had been lost entirely, until the music historian William Barclay Squire found a manuscript and had it printed in 1890.

The man more than any to be thanked for the resurrection of Byrd is Richard Terry, a friend of Squire's and the master of music at Westminster Cathedral from 1901 to 1924. Terry, born in 1865, began transcribing Byrd's music when he was a schoolmaster at Downside.

With the encouragement of Abbot Edmund Ford he formed there a hard-worked choir that, reading from manuscript music, gave performances not only of Byrd, but also of Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, Christopher Tye and Peter Philips, English 16th-century masters of polyphony.

A turning point for Terry, and for Byrd, was the day in 1899 when he took the Downside choir to London, for the opening of the new Benedictine priory at Ealing. They sang Byrd's Mass for Five Voices. It was a revelation for music-lovers and it demonstrated to churchgoers who had grown used to more operatic or contemporary fare that the Tudor polyphonists (and the plainchant that lay behind them) could serve worship well.

Someone who heard Byrd at Ealing was Herbert Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster. "This is the music I want for my cathedral," he was heard to remark. He asked Terry to make a leap in the dark and become master of music for a still unbuilt cathedral. That same Byrd Mass was the first piece sung even before the cathedral was finished, when services began in 1902 in the Chapter Hall, with a choir of 16 men and 25 trebles trained up in the choir school during the previous year.


Here is Byrd's Justorum Animae sung by Voices of Ascension.

Choir practice

...I could use your prayers this morning for my choir practice. Our Music Director is not feeling well, so I will have to conduct "sight-reading" this morning. Lots of Lenten and Easter music to get through.


~Don Marco is praying the Novena to St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows whose feast day is February 27th.
The Merciful Christ wants us for Himself. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32). And should anyone out of shame, or confusion, or fear, hesitate in answering His call, there is, very close, the presence of a Mother, a reconciling Mother, the Mother of Mercy and the Refuge of Sinners, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I have known souls incapable of saying a heartfelt Act of Contrition and yet able to say the Hail Mary with humble sincerity. The strange and wonderful thing is that one who perseveres in saying the Hail Mary will be led gently, but inexorably, to true contrition and to compunction of heart.

Priests should never despair of penitents who return to Confession again and again with the same sins, even if these be grave sins. There is a sure and certain remedy: humble recourse to the Immaculate Mother of God.
Novena Prayers

Stational Church: Sant'Agostino

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

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

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

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

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

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

The friendship of God

~by St. Irenaeus

Our Lord, the Word of God, first drew men to God as servants, but later he freed those made subject to him. He himself testified to this: I do not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead I call you friends, since I have made known to you everything that I have learned from my Father. Friendship with God brings the gift of immortality to those who accept it.

In the beginning God created Adam, not because he needed man, but because he wanted to have someone on whom to bestow his blessings. Not only before Adam but also before all creation, the Word was glorifying the Father in whom he dwelt, and was himself being glorified by the Father. The Word himself said: Father, glorify me with that glory I had with you before the world was.

Nor did the Lord need our service. He commanded us to follow him, but his was the gift of salvation. To follow the Saviour is to share in salvation; to follow the light is to enjoy the light. Those who are in the light do not illuminate the light but are themselves illuminated and enlightened by the light. They add nothing to the light; rather, they are beneficiaries, for they are enlightened by the light.

The same is true of service to God: it adds nothing to God, nor does God need the service of man. Rather, he gives life and immortality and eternal glory to those who follow and serve him. He confers a benefit on his servants in return for their service and on his followers in return for their loyalty, but he receives no benefit from them. He is rich, perfect and in need of nothing.
The reason why God requires service from man is this: because he is good and merciful he desires to confer benefits on those who persevere in his service. In proportion to God’s need of nothing is man’s need for communion with God.

This is the glory of man: to persevere and remain in the service of God. For this reason the Lord told his disciples: You did not choose me but I chose you. He meant that his disciples did not glorify him by following him, but in following the Son of God they were glorified by him. As he said: I wish that where I am they also may be, that they may see my glory.