Thursday, May 31, 2007

St. Peter's

The Dome


Attended early morning Mass in French at St. Peter's. It's a breeze to arrive very lines to contend with. The French choir was very good and the ordinary was Missa de angelis. It was wonderful to chant along.

San Clemente

We attended Mass last evening at San Clemente. The apse mosaic is breathtakingly beautiful. The Irish Dominicans take care of the Basilica.

Vatican Museum

We made a beeline for the Sistine Chapel after getting into the Vatican Museum entrance. After the Chapel, we made our way through the various salas. Here are some of the artifacts that caught my interest.

A Gospelbook cover

An ivory triptych

A rosary and various medals

An ivory diptych

And here are some of the masterpieces:

Annunciation, I think by Barocci (using my tired and overexcited memory banks)

The Deposition by Caravaggio

The Assumption by (your guess is as good as mine--Bellini? No, the edges are softer than Bellini's.)

Another Room with a View

Tom, who is a graduate student in theology at Franciscan University and currently studying in Rome, was raving about this view from his room. So we had to see it for ourselves. What a way to greet each new day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Santa Maria Maggiore

Ceiling of the baptistery

Salus Populi above the altar

Baldacchino from the Confessio

Apse Mosaic of the Crowning of Mary

The line was long for the Vatican Museum and it was raining hard. So we took the Metro to Termini and ran for cover at St. Mary Major. These aren't in any particular order. My hour at the internet center is coming to a close. Will post more later.

By Thy Cross

Don Marco

Relics of the True Cross

Don Marco met us in front of St. Mary Major yesterday and brought us to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It was a deeply-moving experience, first, to enter the church while the mid-afternoon prayer was being chanted. Second, to view the relics of the True Cross while reciting: We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, for by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world (part of my morning prayer) is really beyond words. Third, to have Don Marco celebrate Mass in the little chapel of Our Lady of Good Help was a precious gift. Chanting in that little chapel of live acoustics at the end of the day was truly enchanting.

Up on the roof

The Rev. Mr. Bernard Healy gave us a wonderful tour of the Pontificio Collegio Irlandese. After which, we climbed the roof and this was the marvelous view to which we were treated. New gazebos had just been installed on the roof, so I offered to my services as gardener. Sadly, there's already a gardener on staff. But I was itching to plant all the shrubs and vines in the new planters. The College has lovely old oleander trees ringing the property and also orange trees heavily-laden with big, fat oranges which also scattered the ground beneath. Though they looked plump and juicy, Bernard warned that they would have a strong taste of petrol. Hmmm, not exactly my idea of organic. But my hands smelled of oranges the rest of the day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Musical Fare

Went to Chiesa Nuova for the Liturgy of the Word. This was to close the festival of St. Philip Neri. Music was by the Academy of St. Peter's

Random Roman Musings

Vexation: getting behind a Fiat Cinquecento going snail's pace on the Autostrade

Bemusement: a Ferrari roaring past you on the Autostrade going too fast to identify

Delightful: cobblestones and sandals on a hot day

Vexation: Sandals on cobblestones at the end of a hot day

Delightful: Framing the perfect picture

Vexation: Random Tourist walking past as you click the picture

When in Rome

...go to the Forum

...visit a piazza or two. This is Campidoglio

...visit an angel.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Room with a View

Deep in Chianti country.

Lions in Italy

Ferocious beasts found along the way.

Pentecost at St. Peter's

I don't know who the Scola was, but they were marvelous. The incense rising upwards while chant was ringing through the cavernous St. Peter's Basilica was simply divine. It was a fitting end to a rather remarkable Easter season for me.


I fell in love with Siena. Here are some pictures to show you why. The people were friendly and I had a marvelous conversation with a shopkeeper in my unintended mixture of Spanish and Italian...frustrating, but at least I could carry on conversations.

Steep Sienese Street

Santuario di Caterina

Nave of the Cathedral, Siena

I think this is the ambo...had to take the picture rather quickly as we were being herded through.

Argent in Italy

Hi, all. We arrived here safely after uneventful flights--the best kind. From Milan, we drove through the Appenines and down through Tuscany, Chianti country, and finally to Roma.

We arrived at the Eternal City yesterday on the Feast of Pentecost. The strange thing about air travel and then road travel is that your sense of linear time is suspended. There aren't any visual or auditory cues that tell you what day it is. No rush hour traffic to alert you that it's a working day. And traveling deep in Chianti country where the grapevines and olive groves are your companions, then you begin to enjoy just being. It's almost akin to going on retreat, though even on retreat, the day is punctuated by the cycle of prayers.

Anyway, here are some pictures to whet your curiosity. All taken with a humble digital camera.

Pisa, yes, the tower is really leaning over that much.

Chianti country

Grapevines in Chianti


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

Dear Blogging Friends,

This evening we will begin the first leg of the journey to Italy. But first, a stopover in London to pick up some Cadbury's for a friend (Warning, E, if you're reading this, the chocolates may not survive the first leg...if not, I'll pick up more on my way back) . I hear there are better reasons to go to London, though...;)...and then on to Milan. I'm bringing my trusty battered laptop with which I can 'blog if I can pick up a wireless network. We'll eventually end up in Rome where we will stay for a couple of weeks, seeing sites, meeting friends, oh, and lots of eating, walking, gawking. We'll attend the Canonization Mass at St. Peter's Square on June 3rd. We will close our Roman Holiday with the Corpus Christi Procession on June 7th. Then from there to the Amalfi Coast and then back to real life. It will be glorious.

I've post-dated this since Blogger doesn't yet have the capacity to pre-schedule posts. Anyway, here are posts to keep you interested. Thanks for all your interest in this site. Oh, and if perchance the Motu Proprio is released while I'm in Rome, I have my mp3 voice recorder and will most assuredly be at Piazza San Pietro to share in the jubilation. You never know, I might put up a sound file.

Happily, I will be, once again, truly Argent by the Tiber.

God bless.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Father's gift in Christ

~by St. Hilary

Our Lord commanded us to baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, then, we profess faith in the Creator, in the only-begotten Son and in the gift which is the Spirit. There is one Creator of all things, for in God there is one Father from whom all things have their being. And there is one only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things exist. And there is one Spirit, the gift who is in all. So all follow their due order, according to the proper operation of each: one power, which brings all things into being, one Son, through whom all things come to be, and one gift of perfect hope. Nothing is wanting to this flawless union: in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is infinity of endless being, perfect reflection of the divine image, and mutual enjoyment of the gift.

Our Lord has described the purpose of the Spirit’s presence in us. Let us listen to his words: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. It is to your advantage that I go away; if I go, I will send you the Advocate. And also: I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth. He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine.

From among many of our Lord’s sayings, these have been chosen to guide our understanding, for they reveal to us the intention of the giver, the nature of the gift and the condition for its reception. Since our weak minds cannot comprehend the Father or the Son, we have been given the Holy Spirit as our intermediary and advocate, to shed light on that hard doctrine of our faith, the incarnation of God.

We receive the Spirit of truth so that we can know the things of God. In order to grasp this, consider how useless the faculties of the human body would become if they were denied their exercise. Our eyes cannot fulfil their task without light, either natural or artificial; our ears cannot react without sound vibrations, and in the absence of any odour our nostrils are ignorant of their function. Not that these senses would lose their own nature if they were not used; rather, they demand objects of experience in order to function. It is the same with the human soul. Unless it absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind has the ability to know God but lacks the light necessary for that knowledge.

This unique gift which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone. It is everywhere available, but it is given to each man in proportion to his readiness to receive it. Its presence is the fuller, the greater a man’s desire to be worthy of it. This gift will remain with us until the end of the world, and will be our comfort in the time of waiting. By the favours it bestows, it is the pledge of our hope for the future, the light of our minds, and the splendour that irradiates our understanding.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

To Our Lady

O thou most holy virgin Mary, who dost evermore stand before the most holy Trinity, and to whom it is granted at all times to pray for us to thy most beloved Son; pray for me in all my necessities; help me, combat for me, and obtain for me the pardon of all my sins. Help me especially at my last hour; and when I can no longer give any sign of the use of reason, then do thou encourage me, make the sign of the cross for me, and fight for me against the enemy. Make in my name a profession of faith; favor me with a testimony of my salvation, and never let me despair of the mercy of God. Help me to overthrow the wicked enemy. When I can no longer say: "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I place my soul in your hands," do thou say it for me; when I can no longer hear human words of consolation, do thou comfort me. Leave me not before I have been judged; and if I have to expiate my sins in purgatory, oh! pray for me earnestly; and admonish my friends to procure for me a speedy enjoyment of the blessed sight of God. Lessen my sufferings, deliver me speedily, and lead my soul into heaven with thee: that, united with all the elect, I may there bless and praise my God and thee for all eternity. Amen.

~by St. John Vianney

If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you

~by St. Cyril of Alexandria

After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit.

It was most fitting that the sending of the Spirit and his descent upon us should take place after the departure of Christ our Saviour. As long as Christ was with them in the flesh, it must have seemed to believers that they possessed every blessing in him; but when the time came for him to ascend to his heavenly Father, it was necessary for him to be united through his Spirit to those who worshipped him, and to dwell in our hearts through faith. Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.

It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life. Saul was told by the prophet Samuel: The Spirit of the Lord will take possession of you, and you shall be changed into another man. Saint Paul writes: As we behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, that glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, transforms us all into his own likeness, from one degree of glory to another.

Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid. Very true, then, was our Saviour’s saying that it was to their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Marian Prayer of Cardinal Newman

O Mother of Jesus, and my Mother, let me dwell with you, cling to you and love you with ever-increasing love. I promise the honor, love and trust of a child. give me a mother's protection, for I need your watchful care. You know better than any other the thoughts and desires of the Sacred Heart. Keep constantly before my mind the same thoughts, the same desires, that my heart may be filled with zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart of your Divine Son. Instill in me a love of all that is noble, that I may no longer be easily turned to selfishness.

Help me, dearest Mother, to acquire the virtues that God wants of me: to forget myself always, to work solely for him, without fear of sacrifice. I shall always rely on your help to be what Jesus wants me to be. I am his; I am yours, my good Mother! Give me each day your holy and maternal blessing until my last evening on earth, when your Immaculate Heart will present me to the heart of Jesus in heaven, there to love and bless you and your divine Son for all eternity.

The mission of the Holy Spirit in the church

~from the dogmatic constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council

When the Son completed the work with which the Father had entrusted him on earth, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost to sanctify the Church unceasingly, and thus enable believers to have access to the Father through Christ in the one Spirit. He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water welling up to give eternal life. Through him the Father gives life to men, dead because of sin, until he raises up their mortal bodies in Christ.

The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple. He prays in them and bears witness in them to their adoption as sons. He leads the Church into all truth and gives it unity in communion and in service. He endows it with different hierarchical and charismatic gifts, directs it by their means, and enriches it with his fruits.

By the power of the Gospel he enables the Church to grow young, perpetually renews it, and leads it to complete union with its Bridegroom. For the Spirit and the Bride say to the Lord Jesus: “Come!”

In this way the Church reveals itself as a people whose unity has its source in the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The whole company of the faithful, who have an anointing by the Holy Spirit, cannot err in faith. They manifest this distinctive characteristic of theirs in the supernatural instinct of faith (‘sensus fidei’) of the whole people when, from the bishops to the most ordinary lay person among the faithful, they display a universal agreement on matters of faith and morals.

This instinct of faith is awakened and kept in being by the Spirit of truth. Through it the people of God hold indefectibly to the faith once delivered to the saints, penetrate it more deeply by means of right judgement, and apply it more perfectly in their lives. They do all this under the guidance of the sacred teaching office: by faithful obedience to it they receive, not the word of men but in truth the word of God.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies and guides God’s people by the sacraments and the ministries, and enriches it with virtues, he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every state of life, assigning his gifts to each as he chooses. By means of these special gifts he equips them and makes them eager for various activities and responsibilities that benefit the Church in its renewal or its increase, in accordance with the text: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for a good purpose.

These charisms, the simpler and more widespread as well as the most outstanding, should be accepted with a sense of gratitude and consolation, since in a very special way they answer and serve the needs of the Church.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Chaldean priest released

~from CWN

A Chaldean Catholic priest who was kidnapped in Baghdad on Saturday was released on May 21, but showed signs of having been beaten, the AsiaNews service reports.

Father Nawzat Hanna was released into the custody of Bishop Shlemon Warduni, an auxiliary of the Chaldean patriarchate of Baghdad, on Monday evening. Earlier in the day the bishop had revealed that kidnappers were asking a "very very high" ransom for the priest. ?? Father Hanna was ambushed on May 19 as he left the home of a sick parishioner in Baghdad. The priest had remained in the city, after his relatives had fled for safety abroad, as pastor of one of Baghdad's shrinking Catholic parishes.

See Asia News

Pope's secret role in saving Transnistria Jews

~from Tiraspol Times

After World War II, Nazi war criminals used so-called "rat lines" to escape to safe havens outside of Europe. Catholic priests played a large role in helping Nazis get false papers and prepare for their escape.

What is less widely known is that Catholic church leaders also helped Jews escape from Nazi persecution and near-certain death ... and that this work started well before the Nazi rat lines were established.

During the Holocaust, when the Apostolic Delegate Monsignor Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) was stationed in Istanbul, he ran a "Ratline in Reverse." Quietly cooperating with Chaim Barlas, head of the rescue delegation of the Hebrew community in what would become the state of Israel, the Catholic leader worked hard to save as many Jews as possible.

Professor Dina Porat of Tel Aviv University, a historian who has written extensively on the Holocaust, gained access to the private papers of Chaim Barlas, who together with the future Pope devised a network of escape routes and tactics to rescue thousands of endangered Jews from Eastern Europe.


Had your coffee yet?

~If not, here's something to get you going (hat tip to Diogenes): A New Model of Priestly Ministry...warning, put down all beverages.

A Jesus Beyond Politics

~from Newsweek by George Weigel

“Everything” in Christianity, the Pope writes, depends on building an “intimate friendship with Jesus.” That was true in first-century Galilee; it is just as true in the twenty-first century. But twenty-first century believers have a problem that their forebears didn’t face: the many issues posed by modern methods of reading ancient texts. Now, after two centuries of reading the Bible according to the historical-critical method-“dissecting” the biblical text, as the fictional Abraham Gordon might put it-many Christians are “in danger of clutching at thin air” in seeking this friendship with their Lord. Or so the Pope worries.

And not without good reason. Caricatures notwithstanding, Benedict XVI is no reactive anti-modern. He readily and gratefully acknowledges that, thanks to historical-critical scholarship, we know much more, today, about the different literary genres of the Bible; about the ways in which a Gospel writer’s intent affected his portrait of Jesus; about the theological struggles within early Christianity that shaped a particular Christian community’s memory of its Lord. The difficulty is that, amidst all the knowledge gained in the biblical dissecting room, the Jesus of the Gospels has tended to disappear, to be replaced by a given scholar’s reconstruction from the bits and pieces left on the dissecting room floor. And that makes “intimate friendship with Jesus” much more difficult, not just for scholars, but for everyone.

Joseph Ratzinger was a world-class theologian long before he became the Roman Curia’s official defender of Catholic doctrine, and then the pope. In Jesus of Nazareth, Ratzinger reveals the core of his personality as he invites his readers into the classroom of a master teacher--one who has absorbed the best that modern biblical scholarship has to offer and has yet emerged from that encounter with his faith intact and enriched. At the outset, Ratzinger asks us to join him and to “trust the Gospels,” to read them both critically and with love. Both attitudes are necessary, he suggests, if twenty-first century readers are to understand how each Gospel writer (and the Christian community from which and to which he wrote) explains the Church’s Easter faith: the conviction that “Jesus really did explode all existing cate gories and [can] only be understood in the light of the mystery of God.”


Kidnapppers demand enormous ransom for Chaldean priest

~from Compass Direct News

Church leaders in Iraq reported that kidnappers have demanded a huge ransom for the release of a Chaldean priest abducted in Baghdad over the weekend.

“They phoned us, they want money and we cannot say anything else,” Baghdad’s Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni told Compass regarding the abduction of Father Nawzat Hanna Saturday morning (May 19).

Hanna, 38, was abducted upon exiting the home of a sick parishioner in the city’s Baladiyat neighborhood, Asia News reported. Christian sources told Compass that the ransom demand was six digits in U.S. dollars, far more than the church could pay.

Chaldean priest Bashar Warda, dean of St. Peter’s Seminary, said Hanna is the only priest at the Chaldean Mar Pithion parish of 700 families, located in a north-eastern, predominantly Shiite district of the city.


The work of the Holy Spirit

~by St. Basil the Great

The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realise that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.
Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations – we become God.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ghetto Catholicism

~from the Boston Catholic Journal

Face it: in the English speaking world --- and probably most other countries --- we have become so smug in our own little corner of Catholicism that we find it far more acceptable to "pray in tongues" which no one understands and never will, than to abandon our provincial arrogance and pray in Latin which many of us do not presently understand but can easily learn. There is something comfortable in the exclusivity of our ethnic and cultural ghettos where we express Catholicism on our terms, even if it isolates us from the rest of the Catholic world.

Consider this: of the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide (according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations), all pray in Arabic, although only 80% understand Arabic. Wherever a Muslim goes, nothing separates him from his brother in prayer and worship.

Orthodox, among many other Jews, pray in Hebrew. At , it is argued that, "There are many good reasons for praying in Hebrew... it provides a link to Jews all over the world ... and is the language of Jewish thought."

Why, then, are some Catholics so scandalized by the prospect of praying in Latin?

Arabic is mandatory in Islam.

Hebrew is strongly encouraged in Judaism.

Except in Saudi Arabia and Israel, neither language that is used in prayer is the vernacular. Where is the problem for Muslims? Where is the problem for Jews? They hold a common (but not vernacular) language to bind them despite distance and diversity. But we are Catholics! Not mindless and backwards Muslims and Jews ... right?

We are much more "progressive" and "enlightened". Hebrew is okay for Jews who do not speak Hebrew, and Arabic is okay for Muslims who do not speak Arabic, but Latin is unacceptable for Catholics who do not speak Latin ...? What are we implying by this ... to our fellow religionists?

Our Holy Father, despite the predictably bad press, is rightly attempting to re-establish an egregiously breached continuity in the Church ... a vital continuity that pertains to an identity inseparable from Catholicism; one which has always unified Catholics throughout the world in language as well as teaching, and bringing with it a sacred dignity to worship, in place of the often mindless but trendy inanities Catholics must now endure at Mass in both the Liturgy and the appalling music.

If it is presently "correct" that Catholics are to be bashed for using Latin, then it would appear that we must bash Muslims and Jews as well. Oddly enough, we are inclined to do the one and carefully refrain from the other ...

Pourquoi? Warum? Perchè? Cur? ... in other words, in American, "how come, huh?"

Read the whole thing

Greenpeace building an ark

~from CWN

The radical environmentalist group Greenpeace has begun building a 30-foot boat halfway up Turkey’s Mount Arafat, the location where, according to the Bible story, Noah’s Ark landed when the great flood subsided.

A team of 20 Turkish and German carpenters, working at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, will complete the project. The building of the ark is intended to draw the attention of political leaders attending June’s G8 summit in Germany to the threat of global climate change. The boat is supposed to symbolize the hope of saving the planet from an environmental catastrophe.

Chaldean priest abducted

~from Asia News

Yet another Chaldean priest was kidnapped this morning in Baghdad. He is Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna, parish priest of Mar Pithion, from the Baladiyat quarter. Confirmation of the abduction reached AsiaNews, via Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop in the capital, who has invited Catholics to “pray for Fr. Nawzat’s immediate release”. The abductors have already made contact with the Chaldean Patriarchate, but as of yet there is no further news.

The priest was leaving the house of an ill parishioner, when he was stopped by a group of persons who had been waiting for him, says the bishop. Msgr. Warduni is convinced that a motive for ransom is behind the abduction, but among Baghdad’s faithful the rumour has spread that this morning’s sequester is in response to the Patriarch and bishops recent denouncements of persecution against the Christian community there. “By kidnapping another priest – anonymous sources tell AsiaNews – the terrorists kill two birds with one stone: they get rich and at the same time force the Patriarch to transfer him abroad, thus giving the whole community a very strong message”.


Raleigh noticing Bishop Burbidge

~from the Raleigh News Observer: Bishop crusades quickly on social issues

At a meeting of the priest's council recently, Roman Catholic Bishop Michael F. Burbidge informed its members he intended to be active in public affairs. To the 25 gathered priests gathered, it was no big revelation.

Since assuming office in August, the bishop has been the company man, speaking out on nearly every Catholic social teaching there is. The speed with which he has prepared responses to issues such as embryonic stem cell research and immigration reform has heads turning.

And it marks a dramatic change from his predecessor, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman, who also spoke out on issues of the day but took his time to weigh in.

In the past two weeks alone, Burbidge dispatched his assistant to the state legislature to oppose a bill on end-of-life care. The bishop is concerned it might lead to euthanasia. He also came out in opposition to a bill that would expand sex education in the public schools beyond an abstinence-only curriculum. And today, he is holding a news conference to talk about immigration reform. Burbidge said people have a human right to immigrate and provide for their families.

"He looks at the issues in a more organized way than our Southern ways have been," said Sister Joan Jurski, the coordinator of the diocese's peace and justice office.

Catholics say Burbidge, who hails from Philadelphia, is more energetic than his predecessor, who was 76 when he retired.

Burbidge turns 50 next month; he works out daily.

Others say his willingness to speak out is part of his Philadelphia heritage. Coming from a large urban archdiocese that represents many of the city's residents, Burbidge is part of a tradition of bishops who wield power and influence over politics.

But Burbidge is also convinced that speaking out on issues of concern to Catholics is a big part of his role as bishop.

"I have a responsibility to inform our people of issues that will have an impact on public life," he said. "I don't want to sit by as a spectator. I want to be an active voice."...

...Priests and others say times have changed.


The living water of the Holy Spirit

~by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, thing hitherto undreamed of.