Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lent a bonanza for seafood restaurants

~from Washington Times

Lent, the 40 days before Easter observed by Christians, can mean big bucks for fishy businesses.

Seafood restaurants, whether fast-food or white tablecloth, rake in the clams during the season, especially on Fridays, when Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat.

Long John Silver's, the largest seafood chain in the country, does about one-third of its annual business during Lent.

"It's quite important," said Keith Botner, marketing manager for Long John Silver's. "We use this six- to seven-week time frame to hit home on our brand positioning."

Traditionally, Catholics have eaten fish, instead of meat, as a form of sacrifice. Combine that with the statistic from the National Restaurant Association that the average American eats five meals per week in restaurants or fast-food chains, and it means many of those fish meals are not eaten at home.

Long John Silver's increases advertising during Lent and typically introduces a new product. This year, it's an Alaskan flounder. The chain schedules extra staff and puts out product samples in the stores.

"First and foremost we have all hands on deck, have our teams ready to go on Fridays during Lent," Mr. Botner said. "We really focus on catering to the increase in demand, whether that's having extra order takers, doing table service, even having samples ready while people are in line."

There are about 5 million Catholics in the Washington area, according to the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington.

The increase in fish business can be even stronger for restaurants in largely Catholic cities, such as Boston or Chicago.

"We see [the increase] in the lion's share of our restaurants," Mr. Botner said. "We have some specific markets that will perform disproportionate, relative to the balance of our system."
Other fast-food restaurants have gotten into the seafood game. McDonald's, Arby's, KFC, Popeyes and Burger King offer fish sandwiches.

Just under one-quarter of McDonald's Filet-o-Fish sandwiches are sold during Lent, the Oak Brook, Ill., chain said.

"Obviously during this period, it's a good option for people who need to eat on the go," said spokeswoman Danya Proud.

White tablecloth restaurants that specialize in seafood say Lent is good for business, too.
"It can be a great draw," said Craig Wilde, general manager of McCormick & Schmick's on K Street. "It can get pretty busy."

He attributes the increase to both Catholics and non-Catholics who "just jump on the bandwagon" and enjoy eating fish during the season.

"As a rule, generally, we have a really good Friday," said Deborah Kearney, spokeswoman for Legal Sea Foods, which has six restaurants in the Washington area. "During Lent, it's even stronger. Good Friday, it's probably triple [the business] of a very busy Friday."

Cardinal Bertone confirms Motu Proprio

~from Rorate Cæli

In an interview for the cover story (pages 56-60) of Le Figaro Magazine (weekly magazine of the French national daily Le Figaro), published today (not yet available on the newspaper's website); excerpt:
Is a Decree widening the possibility of celebrating the Latin Mass according to the rite from before Vatican II (the so-called Mass of Saint Pius V) still expected?

[Secretary of State] Cardinal Bertone: The merit of the conciliar liturgical reform is intact. But both [for reasons of] not losing the great liturgical heritage left by Saint Pius V and for granting the wish of those faithful who desire to attend Masses according to this rite, within the framework of the Missal published in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, with its own calendar, there is no valid reason not to grant to every priest in the world* the right to celebrate according to this form. The authorization of the Supreme Pontiff would evidently preserve the validity of the rite of Paul VI. The publication of the motu proprio which specifies this authorisation will take place, but it will be the pope himself who will explain his motivations and the framework of his decision. The Sovereign Pontiff will personally explain his vision for the use of the ancient Missal to the Christian people, and particularly to the Bishops.
*au prêtre du monde entier: literally, to the priest of the whole world

The Catholic Mass

Visit the Website

The Catholic Mass Revealed

~from Zenit

A resource published by a Catholic media company aims to help people of all faiths to better understand the richness and beauty of the Mass, says the project's initiator.

The four-piece collection, published by Atlanta-based Thy Kingdom Come, is called "The Catholic Mass… Revealed!"

In this interview with ZENIT, the founder of Thy Kingdom Come and initiator of the project, Jim DuBos, comments on the resource.

Q: How did the idea for this initiative come about?

DuBos: "The Catholic Mass … Revealed!" is a reflection of my own conversion experience. I was raised a Catholic, but had stepped away from practicing my faith during college.

Many years later my father gave me a book on the Mass that showed photos of Fulton Sheen offering Mass with commentary.

Some 13 years later, while praying one morning, I remembered the gift of this book and how profoundly it affected my return to the Church. It significantly deepened my love and understanding of the beautiful gift of the Eucharist.

I knew God was calling me to do a work on the Eucharist and to provide a resource to the Church so that others might come to know Christ in a deeper way through the Mass.

Q: You sell the DVD, audio commentaries, a booklet and a music soundtrack as a single collection, and not separately. Are the four meant to be interactive? How do they interact?

We chose to do a collection of materials instead of a single item because we all experience God in a unique way and at different times in our life.

Music touches some, video and written material for others. We sometimes come back to materials and get something new that perhaps we missed the first time, or God provides a grace that we need.

As an example: The commentaries are shorter on DVD, but extended on the CD, because you don't have the limitations of placing a corresponding visual.

Since there is more content, the listener can absorb more about the subject. Again, it allows God to work in a new way.

The book is written in a slightly exhortative tone to compel the reader to respond to a yearning that God has for each of us, again allowing God to work.

The chapter structure is common in the collection, but each piece has a slightly different approach and texture.

Q: What were the advantages, did you find, of explaining the Mass using multimedia resources?

DuBos: Since we were dealing with the most sacred of subjects in our faith, we felt compelled to use many different artistic expressions.

Technology had matured to the point where we could offer such a resource, in a cost effective, but very beautiful way.

Q: Young people often complain that the Mass is boring. Unauthorized liturgical experimentation in many parishes has also caused a series of problems. What role do you see for your DVD in overcoming these difficulties?

DuBos: First, we did not produce this collection to become the liturgical police. That was not our mission.

Yes, much could be said about the experimentation, and the damage done. We believe that when a resource like "The Catholic Mass … Revealed!" is used, knowledge and inspiration will affect much of what is done at the parish level in a very positive way.

Young people want the truth, and as Pope John Paul II demonstrated with World Youth Day, they will seek it out. This could be an excellent tool to help a young person renew or find their faith, just as was done for me.

Our deepest desire is that this resource is used to form small groups of people coming together to discuss the Mass and the Eucharist.

Q: Who wrote the commentaries on the Mass? Has the content received the support of the U.S. bishops?

DuBos: Over 40 people contributed to this project. We had a core team of five writers and two editors working on various parts of the collection.

A true symphony of gifts, talents and charisms came together to result in what you see. We had diocesan pastors and priests, educators, members of various associations and movements such as the Knights of Columbus, Opus Dei and Regnum Christi, canon lawyers, theologians, all with one aim: to present Christ and the holy Mass in the most beautiful, accessible and sacred way.

All who worked on this project simply love the Church and wanted to contribute to her evangelizing mission.

Since we are based in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, we sought permission to begin the project from Archbishop Wilton Gregory. He was very encouraging and a great leader.

He opened the door for us to work providing that if we were truly doing a work of God, that God would move the mountains. This type leadership and faith resulted in many people becoming involved and in a very beautiful way. Upon completion of the writing and editing process, we received a "nihil obstat" and an imprimatur for the book.

Q: A portion of the proceeds of the sales goes to help various apostolates, correct?

DuBos: Thy Kingdom Come Inc. was founded in the United States as a public charity. It is a media publishing company with the mission of creating works at the service of the Catholic Church.

To this end, we offer deep discounts to Church entities such as parishes, schools etc. Thanks be to God we have many parishes and schools signing up each day to take advantage of this offer.

We also offer a marketing program to Catholic associations and movements that promote our works within their evangelizing mission using discount codes.

Everyone benefits in this type of relationship.

Q: This is the first project of Thy Kingdom Come! Do you have more in mind?

DuBos: First, we are releasing some new materials based on "The Catholic Mass … Revealed!"

We will be licensing the liturgical music developed in the collection for use in a local parish setting. We hope to have this completed in the coming months.

We are finishing the Latin and English versions of each piece to give a music director an option of which language they want to use. As well, we will be offering some Windows screensavers and digital music for personal use.

We need to be sure that we meet the goal Christ intends for this project. We firmly believe Christ wants a renewal in love for the liturgy and the Eucharist.

We are also looking into the possibility of expanding this collection in various languages and global settings. We hope the possibility to partner with other publishing companies in various countries will present itself.

In regard to new works, much needs to be done relating to the sacramental rites of the Church and helping lay people understand them.

We also see that certain liturgical changes coming to the English translations of the liturgy will require some updates and will also spur a deeper need for good materials.

We are in a good position to help the Church in this regard and look forward to this moment.

We also expect that a renewed interest in the Tridentine Mass will present an opportunity to introduce new generations to the official language of the Church and the beauty it has to offer.

Finally, we are working with a wide variety of individual authors on a new Catholic podcast, books and music resources.

Intensive Old Mass Workshop

~from Una Voce (hat tip to Fr. Tucker)

According to Fr. Goodwin, the workshops will cover not only the rubrics but also the liturgical principles underlying the rubrics.

"Priests will learn not only how far to raise their hands and how to pronounce the Latin, for example, but how the various gestures and prayers fit into the liturgical prayer of the Church, and reflect the Faith itself," Fr. Goodwin said.

"No prior experience with the traditional Mass is needed, and the course is open to all priests regardless of their level of Latin proficiency," he emphasized. "In fact, our instructors are eager to work even with those priests who have no previous Latin training at all."

Fr. Goodwin added that the curriculum, although very intensive, was designed specifically to accommodate today's busy clergy.

"It's often difficult for priests to learn these things from a video or book in their spare time -- they're pulled in a thousand different directions in their parishes," Fr. Goodwin explained. "Here at the seminary, without distractions, they will be able to ask questions and get the answers and encouragement they need," he added.

We are soon going to share in the Passover

~by St. Gregory Nazianzen

We are soon going to share in the Passover, and although we still do so only in a symbolic way, the symbolism already has more clarity than it possessed in former times because, under the law, the Passover was, if I may dare to say so, only a symbol of a symbol. Before long, however, when the Word drinks the new wine with us in the kingdom of his Father, we shall be keeping the Passover in a yet more perfect way, and with deeper understanding. He will then reveal to us and make clear what he has so far only partially disclosed. For this wine, so familiar to us now, is eternally new.

It is for us to learn what this drinking is, and for him to teach us. He has to communicate this knowledge to his disciples, because teaching is food, even for the teacher.

So let us take our part in the Passover prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally. Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies. We are not required to sacrifice young bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God upon his heavenly altar a sacrifice of praise. We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honouring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshipped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

Stational Church: San Giovanni a Porta Latina

Very near the ancient Porta Latina in the Aurelian Wall is a delightful little Renaissance chapel named San Giovanni in Oleo. Here marks the legendary spot where the Evangelist was boiled in oil, from which “he came forth as from a refreshing bath” – an event which is said to have occurred before he went to the Island of Patmos. This tradition is consecrated in the writings of Tertullian, and a cappelletta has existed here since before the time of Boniface VIII (1294-1303). The present octagonal chapel was built in 1509 by the Frenchman, Benoit Adam, and it was again restored by Borromini in 1658. Today is one of the few days that it is open.

Across the road, down a blind alley, rises today’s station church, the very ancient Basilica of San Giovanni a Porta Latina. Dedicated to the beloved disciple of Jesus, this church stands as the most ancient and venerable monument of Saint John the Evangelist’s sojourn in Rome. It is perhaps the most picturesque of the old Roman churches. The enormous conifer which shades the antique well standing in the forecourt, plus the classical columns which support the medieval portico, and the superb twelfth-century campanile, add up to an extraordinarily beautiful scene.

The church was originally reconstructed by Celestine III in 1191; subsequently, it was restored several times more. The care of the church has changed hands many times as well. It has belonged to the Lateran Chapter, the Augustinians, the Confraternity of San Petronio di Bologna, the Mercedaen Scalzi, and the Minimi di San Francesco da Paola (who were driven out by the French in 1798). The State took over part of the buildings in 1873, and in the same year the Franciscan Tertiaries of Albi took charge until malaria drove them away. Then came the Blue Sisters (the Sisters of Santissima Annunziata) who enclosed themselves in the convent. Meanwhile, the whole area was cleared of swamp, improved, and became a residual quarter. Finally in 1937 the church and the buildings attached to it were entrusted to the Institute of Charity (Rosminians) who have carried out much restoration work.

The interior of San Giovanni preserves the striking simplicity of its very early origins. Ten beautiful antique columns of varying styles line the aisles; these lead to two minor apses, flanking the main one, in the oriental fashion. As a very unusual feature, the three apses are polygonal on the outside, and the central one is pierced by three selenite windows.

The twelfth-century frescoes, restored in 1940, are also exceedingly interesting. They depict scenes from Genesis, the Creation and Fall of Man, and from the New Testament, the Redemption. The Old Testament scenes start on the right side near the sanctuary, and the New Testament scenes are painted below them in two tiers. In the central apse are 12th century paintings of the twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse and symbols of the Evangelists. ~From Pontifical North American College, Station Churches of Rome

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mystery as deep as the sea

~from the dialogue On Divine Providence by St. Catherine of Siena

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.

Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognize that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.

You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!

Cardinal Bertone: Faith not just a private matter

~from Zenit

The Vatican secretary of state celebrated Mass for members of the lower house of the Italian Parliament and told them that faith "can never be reduced to a private matter."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone delivered that message Wednesday during the Eucharistic celebration for the members of the Chamber of Deputies. The Mass was celebrated in the Church of St. Gregory Nazianzen, which is next to the Chamber.

The Vatican official prayed during the Mass of preparation for Easter so that the politicians who filled the small church would be able to give "testimony in the world."

"Our presence in the world, including those who have the task of political representation, can never be reduced to a private matter, since that in which we believe should not be hidden, but shared," the cardinal said.

He referred to Igino Giordani (1894-1980), an Italian political figure who was the first married lay person to consecrate himself to God in the Focolare Movement.

Giordani, who is in the process of being beatified, once wrote that the Church fulfills its mission "of life against death, not just in churches of four walls, or in sacristies, or in convents, but also in homes, on the streets, in offices, in fields, even in banks and in parliament."

The cardinal then quoted Blessed Giuseppe Tovini (1841-1897), a lawyer and banker, who said, "Our children without faith will never be rich; with faith, they will never be poor."

Chocolate Jesus

~from WFRV

The Easter season unveiling of an anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ, dubbed "My Sweet Lord" by its creator, has infuriated Catholics preparing to observe some of their holiest days of the year.

The 6-foot sculpture by Cosimo Cavallaro was to debut Monday evening, four days before Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The final day of the exhibit at the Lab Gallery inside Manhattan's Roger Smith Hotel was planned for Easter Sunday.

"This is one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever," said Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, a watchdog group. "It's not just the ugliness of the portrayal, but the timing -- to choose Holy Week is astounding."

The gallery's creative director, Matt Semler, said the Lab and the hotel were overrun with angry telephone calls and e-mails. The gallery was considering its options, he said.

"We're obviously surprised by the overwhelming response and offense people have taken," said Semler, adding that the Holy Week timing was a coincidence.

The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and it features Christ with his arms outstretched. The Cavallaro creation does not include a loincloth.

A publicist for the gallery said the artist was not available for comment.

Cavallaro, who was raised in Canada and Italy, is best known for his quirky work with food as art: Past efforts include repainting a Manhattan hotel room in melted mozzarella, spraying 5 tons of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home and festooning a four-poster bed with 312 pounds of processed ham.

Pope Benedict hears confessions

~from Zenit

Benedict XVI, performing a key priestly duty, entered one of the confessionals of St. Peter's Basilica to hear the confessions of various young people from the Diocese of Rome.

It marked the culminating moment of today's penitential service over which the Pope presided to prepare for the diocesan-level World Youth Day, to be held Sunday in Rome.

In a basilica filled with young men and women, about 200 priests -- some seated on chairs because there were not enough confessionals -- administered the sacrament of reconciliation.

While the confessions were being heard, the choir and orchestra of the Diocese of Rome interpreted medieval penitential songs and read messages that Benedict XVI has written for World Youth Day, and other spiritual writings.

The Holy Father presented the penitential service as "an encounter around the cross, a celebration of the mercy of God that each of us can experience personally in the sacrament of confession."

"In the heart of every person," there is "thirst for love," the Pope said in the homily. "The Christian cannot live without love. Moreover, if he doesn't encounter true love, he cannot even call himself fully Christian."

State of grace

Benedict XVI explained that, in approaching the sacrament of confession, "love and the mercy of God move your hearts. … You experience in this way the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with the Church, and recovery of the state of grace, if you have lost it.

"Christ attracts you to himself, to unite himself with each one of you so that, for our part, we learn to love our brethren with that same love."

"There is great necessity for a renewed capacity to love our brothers and sisters," the Pope said. He invited the young people "to dare to love in your family, in your relationships with your friends, and also with those who have offended you."

Christ offered himself for us

~by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

The sacrifices of animal victims which our forefathers were commanded to offer to God by the holy Trinity itself, the one God of the old and the new testaments, foreshadowed the most acceptable gift of all. This was the offering which in his compassion the only Son of God would make of himself in his human nature for our sake.

The Apostle teaches that Christ offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. He is the true God and the true high priest who for our sake entered once for all into the holy of holies, taking with him not the blood of bulls and goats but his own blood. This was foreshadowed by the high priest of old when each year he took blood and entered the holy of holiest.

Christ is therefore the one who in himself alone embodied all that he knew to be necessary to achieve our redemption. He is at once priest and sacrifice, God and temple. He is the priest through whom we have been reconciled, the sacrifice by which we have been reconciled, the temple in which we have been reconciled, the God with whom we have been reconciled. He alone is priest, sacrifice and temple because he is all these things as God in the form of a servant; but he is not alone as God, for he is this with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of God.

Hold fast to this and never doubt it: the only-begotten Son, God the Word, becoming man offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. In the time of the old testament, patriarchs, prophets and priests sacrificed animals in his honour, and in honour of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.

Now in the time of the new testament the holy catholic Church throughout the world never ceases to offer the sacrifice of bread and wine, in faith and love, to him and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he shares one godhead.

Those animal sacrifices foreshadowed the flesh of Christ which he would offer for our sins, though himself without sin, and the blood which he would pour out for the forgiveness of our sins. In this sacrifice there is thanksgiving for, and commemoration of, the flesh of Christ that he offered for us, and the blood that the same God poured out for us. On this Saint Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops to rule the Church of God, which he won for himself by his blood.

Those sacrifices of old pointed in sign to what was to be given to us. In this sacrifice we see plainly what has already been given to us. Those sacrifices foretold the death of the Son of God for sinners. In this sacrifice he is proclaimed as already slain for sinners, as the Apostle testifies: Christ died for the wicked at a time when we were still powerless, and when we were enemies we were reconciled with God through the death of his Son.

Stational Church: San Stefano Rotondo

Just a short distance from the colleta church or gathering place of Saints John and Paul on the Coelian Hill, this Lenten station takes us back to a sacred area which still preserves its aura of mystery. The site was sacred to the pagans because of the black rock of the Magna Mater on the nearby Palatine, an area upon which “profane” outsiders were forbidden to set foot. Later, the site had a large army barracks with an ancient pagan sanctuary to Mithras, a popular deity among soldiers. Today, the site is sacred to Christians who venerate it as the place which gave martyrdom and glory to saints. The 5th century church of Santo Stefano Celimontana, or Santo Stefano Rotondo, may be the oldest of the round Roman churches with the central altar. Originally it held the relics of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, whose relics had been discovered in the Holy Land in 415, but it was later rededicated to St. Stefan, King of Hungary. Because of its original connection to the Holy Land, the church was modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – their circumferences and diameters are almost identical.

The church originally had three concentric ambulatories, but the outermost has been suppressed, together with three arms of a Greek cross that extended outward from the circular plan. The fourth arm is the present-day entrance and vestibule. The plan is somewhat confusing, though in Jerusalem it allows for a good circulation of pilgrims around the sanctuary. Copying this plan in Rome is a little unusual, since nothing especially noteworthy is in the sanctuary – though at one time it probably contained the relics of St. Stephen. Twenty-two granite columns separate the passageway from the central area of the church.

The memorable frescoes on the walls, executed in the sixteenth century, depict twenty-four scenes of terrible suffering. They are a powerful reminder of the sufferings that these saints endured for the Faith. Each fresco is accompanied by an inscription explaining the scene, naming the emperor who ordered the execution, and quoting a verse from the Bible. When the church was entrusted to the Jesuits in 1580, the Order encouraged its seminarians to contemplate these frescoes and prepare for the fate that might await them as they were sent off as missionaries.

To the left of the entrance is the Chapel of Sts. Primus and Felician, whose relics were translated from the catacombs on the Via Nomentana by Pope Theodore (642-649). The saints are portrayed in a 7th century mosaic, together with frescoes depicting their martyrdom and burial. This is one of the rare 7th century mosaics in Rome; another is found at the baptistery of Saint John Lateran. Immediately to the left, up against a pilaster, is the episcopal throne, called the seat of Gregory the Great. Also note the chapel of Saint Stefan, king of Hungary. ~From Pontifical North American College, Station Churches of Rome

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Episcopalian bishop enters into full communion with Catholic Church

~from The Living Church Foundation

The Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, has appealed for unity following news that his predecessor has entered into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rt. Rev. Daniel Herzog retired as Bishop of Albany Jan. 31. Bishop Love said he learned of Bishop Herzog’s decision in a letter dated March 19 which he received upon his return from the spring retreat of the House of Bishops.

“The recent retirement and subsequent departure of both Bishop Dan [Herzog] and Bishop Dave [Bena] from The Episcopal Church can’t help but have a major impact on each of us and our diocese,” Bishop Love stated in a letter. “One of my greatest concerns as your new bishop is that others in the diocese are also struggling with the current issues that threaten to divide the Church. Please know that I am here for you as we work through these issues.

“As your bishop and brother in Christ, I appreciate and give thanks to God for you and every member of our diocesan family. I need you as we move forward.”

In his letter to Bishop Love, Bishop Herzog stated that his decision was based on more than three years of focused prayer and study.

“My sense of duty to the diocese, its clergy and people required that I not walk away from my office and leave vulnerable this diocese which I love,” he wrote. “I believed that it was my responsibility to provide for a transition to the future. Your subsequent election and consecration discharged that duty and has given me the liberty to follow my conscience, and now resign my orders and membership in the House of Bishops.

“It is certainly no reflection on you or your ministry which Carol and I both admire and respect and for which we pray daily. Needless to say, we have only fondness and appreciation for you and the diocese in whose ministry Carol and I have invested the past 35 years of our lives.”

Bishop Herzog’s departure comes less than a month after it was revealed that before his retirement, Bishop Herzog had agreed to transfer the canonical ministry license of Bishop Suffragan David Bena to the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Bishop Love said both former bishops remain “good friends” and will continue to be welcome at all diocesan functions.

Pope's Study of Church Fathers Not Just for Catholics

~from Zenit's interview with Catholic theologian David Warner

Q: Why would non-Catholic Christians be any more interested in the Fathers of the first couple of centuries than in later saints and doctors of the Church?

Warner: In the Apostolic Fathers and the earliest bishops and apologists, we have the earliest links in the chain that connects today's Christians with the Twelve.

Quoting a second-century bishop, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Benedict XVI reminded us that St. Clement, the third bishop of Rome in succession from St. Peter, had the first apostles' "preaching in his ears, and their tradition before his eyes."

Pope Clement had no qualms about asserting his extra-local apostolic authority, teaching and correcting the Church of Corinth, in distant Greece.

Other great bishops whom Benedict XVI explores, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Polycarp died as martyrs for the truth they knew they had received directly from the original apostles who had taught them.

I remember reasoning while still a Protestant minister, that if Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus could not get it right after just one or two generations, then what hope did I have for believing that Jesus was who the New Testament claimed he was, or that he had founded a Church that would kick in the gates of hell, and be led by the Spirit of truth until his return?

In the end, I wearied of trying to be my own pope, and returned to the Church of the Fathers.

Q: How do you think non-Catholic Christians and others will view Benedict XVI's catechesis on the Fathers of the early Church?

Warner: It is unlikely that many of them will, in fact, come across these teachings directly. But for those who do, their reactions will be influenced by their preconceived ideas and present convictions.

Those who are of a more sociohistorical revisionist persuasion will tend to categorize Benedict's teachings as being nothing more than a repetition of "history as told by the victors" in the ancient battles for orthodoxy.

For them, a seemingly endless stream of "lost gospels" and "new discoveries" are at least complementary to, if not equal or superior to, sacred Scripture and the orthodox writings of the early bishops and saints.

It is a case study for what Cardinal Ratzinger warned of in his homily just before the papal conclave: "Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. … We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain."

We have become accustomed, for example, to being bombarded through the media every Christmas and Easter with wild theories regarding Jesus and the varieties of early Christian belief, appealing to so-called suppressed writings.

Typically, these were written by pseudonymous authors claiming to be one of the apostles or their companions. Many of these manuscripts promoted Gnostic teachings that were already being warned against by the New Testament authors in the first century.

They were rejected by the early bishops as being unfaithful to the teachings of Christ, as passed down through the apostles and their successors.

One encouraging sign is the growing interest among some Protestant scholars and pastors who are fascinated with the project of rediscovering and adapting the unique worldview, theology and spirituality of the Fathers.

Seeking to become more "Catholic" without necessarily becoming "Roman," many evangelical theologians and publishers are producing serious studies on the biblical theology of the Fathers.

This is a promising path of potential convergence that could serve Benedict XVI's own ecumenical commitments. I think these brothers and sisters in Christ might find food for thought and an expansion of their religious imagination by the Pope's patristic reflections.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on why Benedict XVI would choose to teach on these early Christian Fathers just now?

The present Wednesday-audience series on the Fathers began on March 7, 2007. It is a continuation of the Pope's catechesis on the mystery of the Church that began a year ago in March 2006, with weekly meditations on each of the Twelve Apostles.

By October, he was ready to draw our attention to St. Paul and his collaborators: apostolic men like Timothy and Titus -- early bishops, and lay leaders in the Church like the married couple, Aquila and Priscilla.

Benedict XVI is trying to follow Our Lord's command to Peter to "feed my sheep." The food he has chosen to provide us during this series is the tremendous heritage of holy men and women who lived and died as witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Church during the first centuries of the Christian era.

From their witness, we can better understand the mystery of the Church as the "presence of Christ among men."

For Catholics, salvation history is the drama of God's unfolding plan for his people. This story can be read in the pages of sacred Scripture and Church history. Benedict XVI's reflections are designed to cause us to reconsider the essential nature and mission of the Church in the context of salvation history.

Finding Ithaca

~from Yahoo

A geological engineering company said Monday it has agreed to help in an archaeological project to find the island of Ithaca, homeland of Homer's legendary hero Odysseus. It has long been thought that the island of Ithaki in the Ionian Sea was the island Homer used as a setting for the epic poem "The Odyssey," in which the king Odysseus makes a perilous 10-year journey home from the Trojan War.

But amateur British archaeologist Robert Bittlestone believes the Ithaca of Homer is no longer a separate island but became attached to the island of Kefallonia through rock displacement caused by earthquakes. The theory could explain inconsistencies between Ithaki and Homer's description of Odysseus' island.

"Because no one has ever been able to find Ithaca, people felt the Odyssey was like a Lord of the Rings story," Bittlestone said in an interview. "This would say Ithaca was a real place — it doesn't say Odysseus was a real person, that's another jump."

The Dutch-based engineering services company, Fugro Group, will use high-tech surveying equipment normally used in oil-and-gas exploration for the Ithaca project, due to start this summer and last about three years. The Greek Geological Society is also sponsoring the research.

"The technology will be very varied and that attracted Fugro to this," said Steve Thompson director of airborne survey at Fugro. "It's unusual to be faced with a problem where you can apply the broad range of services that we have."

"We're all secretly hoping the thesis is true," he added. "But we are approaching this is in a very scientific way."

To test the theory, engineers and geologists will examine rock where Bittlestone believes a narrow sea channel once existed, possibly separating Kefallonia from a flat peninsula called Paliki. They hope to discover whether it is made of solid rock or debris, which would suggest Paliki was once an island.

Homer describes Ithaca as low-lying and "furthest to the sea" — but Ithaki is mountainous and is not the outermost Ionian island. Paliki, on the other hand, is generally flat and could theoretically have been the outermost island.

General Audience: true faith is taught by bishops, not by intellectuals

Pope Benedict XVI stresses a point during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday

~from Asia News on yesterday's General Audience:

True Christian faith is taught by the bishops of the Church, in particular the bishop of Rome, in other words the Pope: it is public and unique, not intellectual in it’s nature in so far as it is inspired by the Holy Spirit and destined for all people. The principles of the Apostolic tradition and the transmission of faith were addressed by Benedict XVI today in his catechesis to over 30 thousand pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s square for the weekly general audience, under a sun dappled sky.

Continuing in the catechesis on the Church Fathers from the first centuries, today the Pope spoke of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, probably born in Izmir Turkey between 135 and 140, a follower of bishop Policarp, disciple of John, who went on to become the bishop of the French city where he died between 202 and 203, perhaps by martyrdom.

“As a writer –said Benedict XVI – he had the twin aim of defending true doctrine from heretical attacks and of exposing with great clarity the truth of faith”. His works “can be defined as a most ancient Catechism”. At a time when the Church was threatened by Gnostic doctrine according to which “ the Church’s teachings of faith were merely symbolic for the simple incapable of true comprehension”, while the initiated were the only ones capable of understanding the meaning behind those symbols. But “in this way a Christianity for the elite, the intelligencia was being formed”, which risked diversifying itself into many different schools of thought with “strange curios yet attractive elements”.

A common element among the diverse Gnostic sects was their Dualism: The oneness of God was denied while the theory of evil caused by material wealth was counter posed to the idea of a kind God. Irenaeus contrasted the Gnostic pessimism which depreciated material reality. But his work “goes well beyond his confutation of heresy”. In the Popes description he is “ the first great Theologian who created systematic theology”, at the centre of which emerges the question of the “rule of faith ”, as well as it’s transmission. “The rule coincides with the apostles’ creed and gives us the key to interpreting the Gospel” “how it must be read”.

The Gospel Irenaeus preached was the Gospel preached by his teacher Polycarp, who in turn received it from the Apostle John in an unbroken line of succession going back to Christ himself” and that this faith was taught “simply” but at the same time with great “depth”. “There is no secret doctrine, a superior Christianity for intellectuals, does not exist”, the faith which is taught is faith for everybody, publicly transmitted by the apostles to their successors the bishops. Among these the teachings of the Church in Rome must be considered above all, as it traces its roots to the apostles Peter and Paul. All other Churches must agree themselves to it.

“In this teaching –underlined Benedict XVI – the theory that intellectuals posses a superior faith to the one taught by the Church is contested”; faith “is not a privilege of the few”, but anyone can pertain to reaching it through the teachings of the bishops, in particular the bishop of Rome.

The Pope affirmed, this is where the genuine concept of tradition, which is not traditionalization, comes from, and which has three essential characteristics. First “it is “public”, because it is available to all through the teaching of the Bishops; to know the true doctrine it is enough to know the faith as taught by the bishops successors.

Secondly , the apostolic tradition “is “one”, because its content remains the same despite the variety of languages and cultures;”. Benedict XVI here recalled some of the excerpts from Irenaeus book on heresies when he says “even though the Church is disseminated throughout the world, it holds the faith of the apostles as if it were one single home, spoken with one single tongue”.

And finally the apostolic tradition is, in the Greek word “pneumatic”, because, through it, the Holy Spirit continues to enliven and renew the Church even today”. “It is not a case of the transmission of faith being entrusted to men who are more or less capable, but it is the Spirit of God who guarantees the truth of faith”. At the same time this also guarantees a “freshness” of the Church. In short “a precious deposit, held within a valuable vase, which renews itself continuously also renewing the vase which contains it”.

Sustainer of the Universe

~by St. Athanasius from On the Incarnation

The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well. When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His Mind and Might. No. The marvellous truth is, that a being the Word, so far from being Himself contained by anything, He actually contained all things Himself. In creation He is present everywhere, yet is distinct in being from it; ordering, directing, giving life to all, containing all, yet is He Himself the Uncontained, existing solely in His Father. As with the whole, so also is it with the part.

Existing in a human body, to which He Himself gives life, He is still Source of life to all the universe, present in every part of it, yet outside the whole; and He is revealed both through the works of His body and through HIs activity in the world. It is, indeed, the function of soul to behold things that are outside the body, but it cannot energise or move them. A man cannot transport things from one place to another, for instance, merely by thinking about them; nor can you or I move the sun and the stars just by sitting at home and looking at them.

With the Word of God in His human nature, however, it was otherwise. His body was for Him not a limitation, but an instrument, so that He was both in it and in all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At one and the same time--this is the wonder--as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father.

Not even his birth from a virgin, therefore, changed Him in any way, nor was He defiled by being in the body. Rather, He sanctified the body by being in it. For His being in everything does not mean that He shares the nature of everything, only that He gives all things their being and sustains them in it. Just as the sun is not defiled by the contact of its rays with earthly objects, but rather enlightens and purifies them, so He Who made the sun is not defiled by being made known in a body, but rather the body is cleansed and quickened by His indwelling, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth."

Stational Church: Sant'Apollinare alla Terme

Saint Apollinaris was the first bishop of Ravenna and its only known martyr. Tradition says that he was born in Antioch, became a disciple of Saint Peter, and was made bishop of Ravenna by him.

His sanctity and apostolic spirit became legendary, and his veneration spread rapidly in the early church. He worked many miraculous cures and made many converts during his lifetime. Three times he was captured, tormented, and chased from the city, and three times he returned. On the fourth occasion, the Emperor Vespasian (69-79) issued a decree of banishment against Christians, and for a time Apollinaris lay in hiding with the connivance of a Christian centurion; but he was recognized and set upon by a mob at Classis, a suburb of Rome, knocked about, and left for dead. Though he survived the attack, his wounds eventually took his life, and thus he is venerated as a martyr. His shrine of Classe at Ravenna became famous throughout Christendom, and his name occurs in the old Canon of the Milanese Mass.

The church of Sant’Apollinare in Rome was made today’s station by Gregory II (715-731). The church was restored by Adrian I (772-795) and completely rebuilt during the pontificate of Benedict XIV (1740-1758) by the architect Fuga (1699-1781), at his own expense. Originally this church was constructed on the ruins of the Neronian-Alexandrian baths. During the course of the church’s many reconstructions, numerous epigraphical fragments were found that show that this site was once the central office of the Imperial administration of the marble quarries. The building stretched from here to the banks of the Tiber.

When inside the vestibule, note the fresco of the Virgin on the left over the pillar (once the altar of the Blessed Sacrament), an image known as “La Madonna del Portico” and attributed to Perugino (1445-1523), venerated under the title Regina Apostolorum. Under the high altar are the relics of many martyrs brought from the East by Basilian monks and including those of Saints Tiburtius, Eustrasius, Auxentius, Eugenius, Mardarius, and Orestes.
The church was once a collegiate one, but Julius III (1550-1555) dismissed the canons with a pension and gave the church to Saint Ignatius Loyola, with the adjoining buildings, for the use of the German College which Ignatius had recently founded. In 1920 Pius XI (1922-1939) transferred the Deaconry of Santa Maria ad Martyres (the Pantheon) to this church. ~From Pontifical North American College, Station Churches of Rome

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Better than Chia

...a hair-growing rock!

On March 16, 2007, an unusual rock went on display in Beijing. This rock has "hair," almost identical to human hair, growing out of its "head."

The rock is iron gray in color, naturally smooth and rounded, and is similar to a cobblestone. There is also a very thin layer of scalp tissue connecting the "hair" to the rock. The hair is grey in color and similar to the color of the rock itself. The hair grows quite naturally from the top with the longest strands being about 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. The hair is slightly coarser than human hair.

The rock was found on a beach, and according to Fashion Rock Café's executive Miss Yong, this kind of rock is named a "hair-growing rock". As long as conditions are right, the hair on this rare rock will continue to grow. Only two other hair-growing rocks have been reported in the world; and both are in a Taiwan Museum.

This "hair-growing rock" is in a glass display case at the Fashion Rock Café, located in the Digital Building in Beijing's Zhongguan Village. The rock measures approximately 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) long, 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) wide, and about 15 centimeters (6 inches) high.

The value of the rock is estimated to be around 10 million Yuan (approximately USD 1.3 million).

Speedy priest

~from Reuters via Catholic Light

A Portuguese group campaigning for safe roads has asked the Vatican to ensure that a priest who owns a souped-up Ford Fiesta "resist the temptations of speed."

Father Antonio Rodrigues, Portugal's only owner of a 150-horse-power Ford Fiesta 2000 ST, has boasted of his car's rapid acceleration to 130 miles per hour and "thanked God" for never being fined, the Association of Motorist Citizens said in a letter to the Pope.

"I am no speed freak," daily Correio de Manha quoted Rodrigues as saying Monday. "I have a car that I like but I drive with prudence."

The association's letter, which was published on its Web site, cited the priest as saying he uses the car to take youngsters for spins and to zip around to "arrive on time to the three parish churches."

"We ask Your Holiness to help this unfortunate priest to ponder the gravity of his acts and the immodesty of his words and to resist the temptations of speed and boasting," the letter to the Pope said.

Have I used up my allotment of quirky news yet? Blame it on the attack of the killer dust clouds of pollen.

Agnostics Unite!

~from Agnus Daily

Scholars and students from around the world flocked to the 4th annual “Agnosticism in the West” conference, which was held in Edmonton Canada this year at the Edmonton Convention Center. This meeting of the minds has been widely successful at bringing together those who proudly find themselves aboard the ship of life with no oars, and no destination.

“I’m not sure why I’m here,” explained Doug Prince, a self-proclaimed agnostic, “I mean, I know why I’m at the convention (at least I’m pretty sure I do), but I mean I don’t know why I’m here in this world, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just great to be around others in my situation.”

Many of the attendees come to the conference in order to find reasons to believe, and discover methods to promote and evangelize the agnostic faith. One of the main draws to the conference is the cast of world renowned agnostic apologists and scholars that deliver exciting and informative talks throughout the convention center.

“Our faith is simple, yet complex.” Explains Margaret Johnson, a recent convert to agnosticism, “It’s simple because you can know that you don’t know why you are here on earth and whether there is a God or not, and it’s complex because you don’t for sure that you can know that you don’t know why you are here in this world and if God exists. You know what I mean?”

Read more, if you want to. You don't have to, though. Either way is fine by me.

Bored with the Old Testament?

~Swedes recreate Old Testament in glossy magazine format. Really tasteless cover on this one.

The Holy Bible has undergone a major cosmetic change including glossy pages and a seductive cover rivaling contemporary fashion magazines.

“Bible Illuminated, Gamla Testament: The Book” takes on the format of a magazine and was designed by former Swedish advertiser Dag Söderberg, who is now project leader for the new Swedish publication, according to an article featured on Sweden’s official website.

“Most people have issues with the Bible,” Söderberg said in the article posted in “They have never gotten into it. They don’t find it accessible. But it’s our history, our heritage. And for most of us, we relate to it more than we think. Religious or not, it shapes much of our moral codes.”

Söderberg, who describes himself as not particularly religious, explains that “The Book” is not meant to be a religious ploy. Rather, he says the Bible is useful for moral and ethical guidance and is important in understanding many aspects of life.

He noted that millions of magazines are sold every month in Europe and hopes that presenting the Old Testament in magazine format will give it a greater appeal to readers.

“It’s closer to the way people read today,” said Söderberg. “People prefer a text that is journalistically laid out: split into articles, with headlines, quote boxes, pictures and captions. This way they can more easily pick the parts they’re interested in reading.”

However, the the Bible-magazine’s provocative images with scriptural verses running alongside might turn some heads and even make some Christians uncomfortable. Its images include a sensuous kiss, industrial smokestacks, a homeless man on the streets, and a topless male model emerging from the ocean.

“I didn’t make it for everyone to like,” said Söderberg. “More for people to think. Some people will like it, some hate it. Either way, I want it to be well spread, to create a buzz. I want people to start taking it to dinner parties, instead of flowers. That way, perhaps everyone can have a Bible on their table without causing too much panic.”

“The Book” – containing exact, unedited text from the Old Testament – has already printed 30,000 copies compared to about 70,000 traditional Bibles that are sold in Sweden each year.

According to Söderberg, the magazine Bible has received positive response from the Swedish church with the forward being signed by Anders Wejryd, the archbishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church.

Currently, plans are underway to translate the magazine into English and follow-up the magazine with a New Testament series.

Jesus Christ prays for us and in us and is the object of our prayers

~by St. Augustine

God could give no greater gift to men than to make his Word, through whom he created all things, their head and to join them to him as his members, so that the Word might be both Son of God and son of man, one God with the Father, and one man with all men. The result is that when we speak with God in prayer we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Saviour of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers.

He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God.

Let us then recognise both our voice in his, and his voice in ours. When something is said, especially in prophecy, about the Lord Jesus Christ that seems to belong to a condition of lowliness unworthy of God, we must not hesitate to ascribe this condition to one who did not hesitate to unite himself with us. Every creature is his servant, for it was through him that every creature came to be.

We contemplate his glory and divinity when we listen to these words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made. Here we gaze on the divinity of the Son of God, something supremely great and surpassing all the greatness of his creatures. Yet in other parts of Scripture we hear him as one sighing, praying, giving praise and thanks.

We hesitate to attribute these words to him because our minds are slow to come down to his humble level when we have just been contemplating him in his divinity. It is as though we were doing him an injustice in acknowledging in a man the words of one with whom we spoke when we spoke when we prayed to God; we are usually at a loss and try to change the meaning. Yet our minds find nothing in Scripture that does not go back to him, nothing that will allow us to stray from him.

Our thoughts must then be awakened to keep their vigil of faith. We must realise that the one whom we were contemplating a short time before in his nature as God took to himself the nature of a servant; he was made in the likeness of men and found to be a man like others; he humbled himself by being obedient even to accepting death; as he hung on the cross he made the psalmist’s words his own: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We pray to him as God, he prays for us as a servant. In the first case he is the Creator, in the second a creature. Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body. We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us.

Good news for a change

~Boston's Priest of the Year (hat tip to Catholic Light)

When the Rev. David Barnes took over at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, he was the youngest pastor in the Archdiocese of Boston and the church was $748,000 in debt.

Nearly three years later, Barnes, now 35, is still the youngest pastor in the diocese. But the debt is gone, and so are doubts about the future of the city's largest Catholic church.

For presiding over that turnaround, Barnes was named priest of the year at the third annual Boston Men's Catholic Conference last weekend. More than 3,000 people attended the conference on Saturday at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Barnes was nominated by his parishioners and was selected as the winner by a five-person committee from among about 70 other priests.

"The fact that he was a rookie pastor and was able to pull that off tremendously impressed the committee," said Scott Landry, a co-founder of the Boston Men's Catholic Conference. "We were surprised he was able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time without much experience."

Barnes said he appreciates the award, but is also a bit embarrassed by the attention.

"All the good things here are because everyone's working together, not because of one person," he said.
Parishioners say Barnes deserves credit for stabilizing the church finances, but they say that is a mere byproduct of the spiritual impact he has had on the parish.

"The finances are a piece of it, no doubt," said Neil Corcoran, who is board president of St. Mary's School. "He's stepped into a somewhat challenging situation and has been instrumental in turning it around. But he's our spiritual leader, too, and that's what he does best. He has genuinely tried to bring people back to the church during a time that has been difficult for this diocese."

Since Barnes took over, weekly collections have gone from an average of $6,000 to $9,200, according to Augulewicz. She said Barnes has brought back such traditions as the annual 40-hour Devotion to the Eucharist and the Corpus Christi Procession. The downtown church, which was built in 1898, is also undergoing $300,000 in improvements, including the painting of its majestic upper church.

"I think his strength is that people are drawn to him and people become drawn to the church," Augulewicz said. "He's always giving us the opportunity to grow in our faith. And as people grow in their faith, they want to become more involved and are more invested in the church. People become more faithful and they give more."

Stational Church: San Marcello

An ancient tradition links this church with the imprisonment and death of Pope Marcellus I (308-309). It is said that Saint Marcellus opened an oratory in the house of a devout lady, Lucina, widow of Pinianus, and that Maxentius (defeated by Constantine in 312) desecrated this oratory by ordering the horses of public carriers to be stationed here. He then condemned Marcellus to the duties of stable boy (catubulum), but this treatment exhausted the strength of the old Pope, and he died here in 309. Afterwards, he was buried in the cemetery of St. Priscilla. A letter from the Prefect Symmachus to the Emperor Honorius, written in the early part of the fifth century, speaks of the election of St. Boniface I (418-422) at the ecclesia Marcelli.

After the death of Pope St. Zosimus (417-418), Eulalius (an antipope) was elected at the Lateran, but the true pope, Boniface I (418-422) was consecrated on December 29, 418 at San Marcello. This church, then, became the assembly point for the solemn papal procession. The oratory was enlarged in the fifth century, and in the ninth century the remains of St. Marcellus were brought from the cemetery of Priscilla and, along with those of Pope Vigilius (538-555), were interred beneath the high altar; they are still there today. San Marcello is one of the original twenty-five parishes of Rome, and it was made today’s station by Gregory the Great.

San Marcello was reconstructed by Adrian I and restored by Stephen V and Gregory IV. The old church burned down in 1519 and was rebuilt by Iacopo Sansovino. He completely altered the church by making it face the Via Flaminia (Via del Corso), where the apse had originally been. A wooden crucifix survived this disastrous fire, and so it became known as a miraculous object worthy of veneration. In times of stress or before major events in the city, the Romans used to carry it in solemn procession throughout Rome. It was carried through the streets, for example, in anticipation of the Second Vatican Council. This “Crucifix of St. Marcellus” can be seen in the right middle chapel.

Also note the many Renaissance tombs in the church. The most striking is that of Cardinal Michiel and his nephew, Bishop Orso, at the left of the main door. The cardinal was poisoned in 1503 in Castel Sant’Angelo by order of Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia, 1492-1503). Just below his reclining effigy is his nephew, portrayed lying on a bier, beneath which are stacked piles of books – a memorial of the 730 precious codices that he bequeathed to the church.

In 1912 a large baptistery, built into the original titulus, was discovered. Ask permission from the sacristan to see this, one of the oldest preserved baptismal fonts. From the fourth or fifth century, it is deep enough to allow for partial immersion. In 1920 extensive repairs had to be carried out because of the damage caused by a strike of lightening.

The church of Saint Marcello is entrusted to the care of the Order of the Servants of Mary, whose Generalate is adjacent to the church. On the left-hand side of the church, the first chapel is dedicated to the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. The third chapel on the left is the Chapel of the Sorrows of Our Lady, whose devotion is held in high esteem by the Servite Fathers. ~From Pontifical North American College, Station Churches of Rome

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Legos are dangerous to your children

~The latest insanity from the movement called "politically correct" (or, co-wreck...are you having fun? Well, you're wrecking my day, so I'm going to take away your toys). From the NRO: Banning Legos

At Hilltop, however, the teachers strive to make them different. “We recognized that children are political beings, actively shaping their social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity,” write Pelo and Pelojoaquin. “We agreed that we want to take part in shaping the children’s understandings from a perspective of social justice. So we decided to take the Legos out of the classroom.”

The root cause of Hilltop’s Lego problem was that, well, the kids were being kids: There were disputes over “cool pieces,” instances of bigger kids bossing around little ones, and so on.

An ordinary person might recognize this as child’s play. But the social theorists at Hilltop saw something else: “The children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive.”

Pelo and Pelojoaquin continue: “As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.”

So they banned the Legos and began their program of re-education. “Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation,” they write.

Instead of practicing phonics or memorizing multiplication tables, the children played a special game: “In the game, the children could experience what they’d not been able to acknowledge in Legotown: When people are shut out of participation in the power structure, they are disenfranchised — and angry, discouraged, and hurt. ... The rules of the game — which mirrored the rules of our capitalist meritocracy — were a setup for winning and losing. ... Our analysis of the game, as teachers, guided our planning for the rest of the investigation into the issues of power, privilege, and authority that spanned the rest of the year.”

After “months of social justice exploration,” the teachers finally agreed it was time to return the Legos to the classroom. That’s because the children at last had bought into the concept that “collectivity is a good thing.” And in Hilltop’s new Lego regime, there would be three immutable laws:
  • All structures are public structures. Everyone can use all the Lego structures. But only the builder or people who have her or his permission are allowed to change a structure.
  • Lego people can be saved only by a “team” of kids, not by individuals.
  • All structures will be standard sizes.
You can almost feel the liberating spirit of that last rule. All structures will be standard sizes? At Hilltop Children’s Center, all imaginations will be a standard size as well: small.

Next thing you know they'll be banning childhood itself. Here's one for you, Misses Pelo and Pelojoaquin.

A Birthday present from the Pope

...on his birthday to all the Vatican employees. From CWN: Vatican employees given bonus, holiday for Pope's 80th birthday
All Vatican employees will enjoy €500 bonus and a holiday on April 16 to mark the 80th birthday of Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, announced plans for the bonus. The last such special gift to employees-- another €500 bonus-- came to celebrate the election of Pope Benedict in April 2005. Just a few weeks earlier, the camerlengo of the papal household, supervising Vatican affairs in the interregnum after the death of Pope John Paul II, had declared a €1,000 bonus (about $1,300) for every employee in thanksgiving for their service during the long reign of the Polish Pontiff.

Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's basilica on April 15 in anticipation of his birthday. Just a few days later, on April 19, he will celebrate the 2nd anniversary of his election to the papacy.

Former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, who is now a Senator for Life and editor of the monthly 30 Giorni, has announced plans for a special birthday edition of that magazine in tribute to the Pope on his birthday. Andreotti has asked cardinals to send him their birthday wishes for the Pope, which he will publish in the next issue.

Rules of Engagement

~from Fr. Z:
Fr. Z’s 5 Rules of Engagement for When and If the Motu Proprio Comes:

1) Rejoice because our liturgical life has been enriched, not because "we win". Everyone wins when the Church’s life is enriched. This is not a "zero sum game".

2) Do not strut. Let us be gracious to those who have in the past not been gracious in regard to our "legitimate aspirations".

3) Show genuine Christian joy. If you want to attract people to what gives you so much consolation and happiness, be inviting and be joyful. Avoid the sourness some of the more traditional stamp have sadly worn for so long.

4) Be engaged in the whole life of your parishes, especially in works of mercy organized by the same. If you want the whole Church to benefit from the use of the older liturgy, then you who are shaped by the older form of Mass should be of benefit to the whole Church in concrete terms.

5) If the document doesn’t say everything we might hope for, don’t bitch about it like a whiner. Speak less of our rights and what we deserve, or what it ought to have been, as if we were our own little popes, and more about our gratitude, gratitude, gratitude for what God gives us.

Christian Men Seek Lost Masculinity

~from The Christian this for real? Sounds more interesting than Richard Rohr's Men's Spirituality (to quote from the Men's Spirituality website): Male spirituality is the spiritual journey of transforming meanlessness into meaning and living consciously in a connected universe.
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A new men's movement is burgeoning into the Christian scene, picking up men bored in the pews and toughening them up with the other side of Jesus' image - the table-tipping side.

"Men are a punchline in America," said comedian Brad Stine, founder of GodMen, on ABC News. "Anything that's masculine is considered misogynistic, suspect, trying to be oppressive. We're none of those things."

GodMen brings hundreds of Christian men together to do "guy stuff," things they normally would not do in the churches. They watch professional sports screw-ups and witness a man bend a metal wrench with his bare hands. But the integral part of the movement is the raw talks, including discussions on pornography addiction.

"The biggest thing we're trying to give them is absolute authenticity and honesty," said Stine, who has hosted two conferences so far in Franklin, Tenn. "You get to be real and raw. We're flawed, we're messed up, we're not perfect ... we are on a journey but we screw up every single day."

But now the guys have a tribe of brothers to go with them on their journey - a journey where men can be "fully men."

"Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!" said Stine at the first GodMen conference in 2006.

"I think GodMen is an attempt to recapture some of the masculinity that's been lost in our churches today," David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, told The Christian Post. "I certainly applaud Stine and his team."

Murrow currently runs an organization called Church For Men, calling churches to unleash the masculine spirit. More than 60 percent of church attendants at a typical worship service are women and Murrow writes that the church has become a hostile environment to men, particularly "masculine men" who are uncomfortable in the typically feminized church.

Churchgoers are taught to reflect the meek and mild image of Jesus Christ. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, churches often preach.

But one GodMen attendant says he's running out of cheeks. After attending the ministry's second conference this month, the male Christian said he will no longer turn the other cheek. Instead, he'll "stand up to it," ABC News reported.

"A meek and mild Jesus ... eventually is a bore," said Stine.

Some people are troubled with the new attitudes men go away with after attending the conference, the latest of which had 300 attendants.

Howard Stephenson, 43, called the movement "extreme" for him, according to The Los Angeles Times. But weeks after attending the conference, he boldly complained to a Wal-Mart clerk who was writing "Happy Holidays" on a window. "It should say 'Merry Christmas.'" The greeting was erased.

"I wouldn't have done that before," he told the LA Times.

Murrow said he does not think GodMen will draw criticism. "I think Jesus' meek side has been given lots of press. What's lost is his ... manliness. Any effort to bring that back to the public sphere is going to help us (churches) attract men."


Holy Week with the Pope

~from the Vatican

1 April
Palm Sunday and Passion of the Lord
Saint Peter's Square, at 9.30
Blessing of the Palms, Procession

2 April
Holy Monday
Saint Peter's Square, at 17.30
Holy Mass in suffrage of the deceased Holy Father John Paul II

5 April
Holy Thursday
Vatican Basilica, at 9.30
Chrismal Mass

Basilica of St. John Lateran, at 17.30
Beginning of the Paschal Triduum
Mass of the Lord's Supper

6 April
Good Friday
Vatican Basilica, at 17.00
Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Colosseum, at 21.15
Way of the Cross

7 April
Holy Saturday
Vatican Basilica, at 22.00
Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

8 Easter Sunday
Saint Peter's Square, at 10.30
Mass of the Day

Central Loggia of the Vatican Basilica, at 12.00
"Urbi et Orbi" Message and Blessing

Sheep may safely graze?

~from This is London

Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep's foetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor's bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep's foetus. When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.

"We would take a couple of ounces of bone marrow cells from the patient,' said Prof Zanjani, whose work is highlighted in a Channel 4 programme tomorrow.

"We would isolate the stem cells from them, inject them into the peritoneum of these animals and then these cells would get distributed throughout the metabolic system into the circulatory system of all the organs in the body. The two ounces of stem cell or bone marrow cell we get would provide enough stem cells to do about ten foetuses. So you don't just have one organ for transplant purposes, you have many available in case the first one fails."

At present 7,168 patients are waiting for an organ transplant in Britain alone, and two thirds of them are expected to die before an organ becomes available.

Scientists at King's College, London, and the North East Stem Cell Institute in Newcastle have now applied to the HFEA, the Government's fertility watchdog, for permission to start work on the chimeras.

But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.

The Pope’s anti-liberal revolution

~from The Spectator UK
Now it was the turn of traditional Catholics to be dismayed. Had Pope Benedict forgotten what he had said in his address at the funeral of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, about the danger posed by moral relativism? Surely a Pope of his age, whose reign could not be long, should act with more urgency? Was their Rottweiler now an old spaniel, happy to doze in front of the fire?

Or was Pope Benedict biding his time? Last week he published an Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis — The Sacrament of Love. In part it is a summary of the conclusions of the Synod of Catholic Bishops held in Rome in October 2005 — the start of the liturgical Year of the Eucharist promulgated by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II — and as such carries the authority of the whole Church. But it is also a theological tour de force showing the clarity and cogency that are particular to the writings of Joseph Ratzinger.

Sacramentum Caritatis opens with a lucid exposition of the Catholic belief on the Eucharist. The priest’s words of consecration during the Mass turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — a transformation Pope Benedict describes as ‘a sort of “nuclear fission” which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world’.

This belief, with its connotations of cannibalism and human sacrifice, has always been hard to take. Even in Christ’s lifetime, many of his disciples, according to Saint John, regarded the idea as ‘intolerable ...and stopped going with him’. It was a defining bone of contention between Catholics at the time of the Reformation. Luther downgraded the change from transubstantiation (the bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Christ) to consubstantiation (bread and wine remain bread and wine but co-exist with the flesh and blood of Christ), and Calvin disbelieved it altogether.

Thus the first of the threefold challenges posed by the Eucharist, Pope Benedict writes, is belief in this mystery of faith. The second is to celebrate the sacrament with the dignity and beauty it merits: ‘everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty’. And finally, the Eucharist must be an inspiration to those who partake in it to a commitment to the betterment of mankind.

The Cross of Christ is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces

~by St. Leo the Great

Our understanding, which is enlightened by the Spirit of truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the cross as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the meaning of the Lord’s words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Afterward he said: Now my soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son. When the voice of the Father came from heaven, saying, I have glorified him, and will glorify him again, Jesus said in reply to those around him: It was not for me that this voice spoke, but for you. Now is the judgement of the world, now will the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.

How marvellous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgement-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonour, life from death.

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfilment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Dearly beloved, let us then acknowledge what Saint Paul, the teacher of the nations, acknowledged so exultantly: This is a saying worthy of trust, worthy of complete acceptance: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up. By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them. He did away with the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity. As all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ.

Stational Church: Santa Maria in Via Lata

The ancient station of Saint Cyriacum, indicated in the Roman Missal, recalls the very old titular church which was already in use by the fifth century. It is remembered many times in the Liber Pontificalis, but the ancient structure had fallen into ruins by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Its situation is known from an antique room located under the northwest pavilion of the Ministero delle Finanze towards the Via XX Settembre. In 1492 San Ciriaco was registered among the abandoned churches. It ruins, in the proximity of the Baths of Diocletian, rested in the vineyard of the Certosini who inhabited the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The church was restored by Sergius I (687-701) but continuous flooding by the Tiber made the foundations unsafe. Nevertheless, another church was completed here by Leo IX (1049-1054) and it is this church which Eugenius IV (1431-1447) united to the possessions of the adjoining suppressed convent of Santi Ciriaco e Nicolo (which stood on the Piazza del Collegio Romano). Innocent VIII (1484-1492) rebuilt the church again, in the form that we see it today.

First of the four ancient Deaconries, this church records in its name the intramural part of the Via Flaminia. According to a strong tradition, St. Paul is said to have spent two years of his imprisonment here under house arrest and also to have written the Letter to the Hebrews while living here. If this is true, then it was here that Paul converted Onesimus to the Faith. Some add that St. Luke, and perhaps even St. John the Evangelist, might have stayed here for a time as well. Relics here include the head of St. Cyriacus, the body of the 3rd century deacon and martyr, St. Agapitus, and the remains of many other martyrs, including Sts. Largus and Smargdus. Try to go down into the underground oratory of four rooms containing paintings of the imprisonment of St. Paul, and some ancient travertine pillars.

Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878) was once a canon of this church, and a bust to his memory has been placed near the altar on the right side. The church is familiar to those who come here for Eucharistic Adoration; the nuns who pray before the Blessed Sacrament here are Le Figlie della Chiesa. Above the altar is a 13th century icon of the Vergine Avvocata, said to have caused many miracles. The tomb of the poet Antonio Tebaldeo (1453-1537) is at the end of the left aisle. It was designed in 1776. Tebaldeo was a friend of Raphael, who painted a portrait of him of which a copy is found here; the original is in the Vatican Pinacoteca. Also found here are the tombs of the families of Joseph and Lucien Bonaparte. ~From Pontifical North American College, Station Churches of Rome