Monday, April 30, 2007

So ends April

...all jocularity aside, I could use your prayers...another funeral, this time for a friend's mother. One of the hardest things for a church musician is to play for funerals where you know the people. I've not mastered the 'nerves of steel' yet....don't know if I ever will. Here is how I feel:
The Burial of the Dead, from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain....

...What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)...

¿Que es esto?

For some strange reason, DimBulb of The Divine Lamp has decided to enter this 'blog in the Blogger's Choice Awards. Last week, he was proud to not have been nominated, which quickly changed, of course. I think he decided that he wanted to spread the dubious honor of "losers" so here we are at the bottom of the heap. What are the Blogger's Choice Awards anyway? I went to the religion category and noticed a really good showing of Catholic 'blogs. Go, team! Wait, why are we cheering again? Oh, yeah, the New Evangelization.

Now, winning the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest would be something!

The MP Pool

~from The Curt Jester: Much Better Than Bingo
Play with your like-minded friends in you local parish or throughout your diocese. It is really simple to play. Just pick the date you think it will be issued on and write your name. Each person ponies up a dollar to pick a date of their choice. If the document is not released that month the pot rolls over to the next month and you all try again.

The best thing is that it does not matter who wins the pool since when the Motu Proprio is released everybody wins.

Sing-along with Sting

~from USA Today

The lyrics of Sting, almost every word he wrote, from his solo records to his years with the Police, will come out in book form this fall.

Lyrics by Sting will include the words of such hits as Roxanne,Every Breath You Take and Spirits in the Material World, along with commentary by Sting.

"Over time, the meaning of a song can continue to reveal itself," Sting, the bassist and lead vocalist for the Police, said Monday in a statement released by The Dial Press, an imprint of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group.

"In putting this book together, I have relished the opportunity to revisit my songs, the times in which they were written and pay tribute to those with whom I've shared my creative life."

Every year, at least one couple getting married requests "Every Breath You Take" for their nuptial Mass and I have to use all the self-control I can muster not to burst out laughing or roll my eyes and say something uncharitable.

Child's Play

When children who attend daily Mass play together, what happens? Here There Are Lions: Child's Play

The kids who didn't get into Harvard

~from The New York Times by Michael Winerip. He used to get upset when a student he interviewed didn't make it into Harvard.
+ + +

What kind of kid doesn’t get into Harvard? Well, there was the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake.

At his age, when I got hungry, I made myself peanut butter and jam on white bread and got into Harvard.

Some take 10 AP courses and get top scores of 5 on all of them.

I took one AP course and scored 3.

Of course, evolution is not the same as progress. These kids have an AP history textbook that has been specially created to match the content of the AP test, as well as review books and tutors for those tests. We had no AP textbook; many of our readings came from primary documents, and there was no Princeton Review then. I was never tutored in anything and walked into the SATs without having seen a sample SAT question.

As for my bean sprouts project, as bad it was, I did it alone. I interview kids who describe how their schools provide a statistician to analyze their science project data.

I see these kids — and watch my own applying to college — and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.

I used to say goodbye at my door, but since my own kids reached this age, I walk them out to their cars, where a parent waits. I always say the same thing to the mom or dad: “You’ve done a wonderful job — you should be very proud.” And I mean it.

But I’ve stopped feeling bad about the looming rejection....

...My four have been raised in an upper-middle-class world. They look around and see lots of avenues to success. My wife’s two brothers struggled as students at mainstream colleges and both have made wonderful full lives, one as a salesman, the other as a builder. Each found his own best path. Each knows excellence.

So now tradition is invoked

~from The New York Times (hat tip to Chris Johnson who observes in his First Law of Ecclesiastical Thermodynamics: if your "church" ordains or gives pointy hats to women or practicing homosexuals, then you don't EVER get to invoke "the ancient practice of most of the church.)
The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, a fierce critic of the Episcopal Church for its acceptance of homosexuality, is arriving next week to install a bishop to lead congregations around the country that want to break from it.

Episcopal leaders say the visit threatens to strain further the already fragile relations between their church and the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion. But Episcopal traditionalists say there is a growing desire among them to break away....

...Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement that Archbishop Akinola’s acceptance of “an invitation to episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation” was not in keeping with “the ancient practice in most of the church” that bishops minister only within their own jurisdictions.

“This action would only serve to heighten current tensions,” the statement said, “and would be regrettable if it does indeed occur.”

Do go and read Chris' post and don't miss the comments
. I know I shouldn't continue this morbid fascination with things Anglican now that I'm safely on this side of the Tiber. But I have friends who continue to remain, and continually move the line in the sand.

Latest threat to Archbishop Bagnasco

~from The Houston Chronicle

The archbishop of the Italian city of Genoa received a bullet in an envelope at his office — the latest threatening message for the prelate, who is leading a campaign against same-sex unions, Vatican Radio said Sunday.

The bullet arrived Friday at the office of Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who was recently elected to head the politically influential Italian Bishops Conference, the radio report said. It quoted a Genoa newspaper as saying the envelope also contained a photo of the archbishop with a swastika cut into it.

St. Pius V

In December of 1565, Pope Pius IV died, his one monumental achievement the resumption and successful conclusion of the Council of Trent. The man chosen to succeed Pius IV and upon whose shoulders rested the responsibility for carrying out the decrees of the council was Michael Ghislieri, a Dominican friar. It was the late pontiff's nephew St. Charles Borromeo who had been the driving force in the election of the new pope, for he recognized that a remarkable leader would be needed if the decrees of the council were to bear fruit.

Michael Ghislieri was a poor shepherd boy who entered the Dominicans at the age of fourteen, became a lecturer in philosophy and theology at Pavia, and very early became involved in the reform movement in the Church. His reforming labors brought him to the attention of other members of the reform movement, and he was given important positions in Como, Bergamo, and Rome. In 1556, he was consecrated bishop of Sutri and Nepi, and then to the diocese of Mondevi, lately ravaged by war. In a very short time, the diocese was flourishing and prosperous. His views on reform were often asked by the Holy Father, and he was noted for his boldness in expressing his views.

His holiness and austerity of life were notable, and he succeeded in bringing simplicity even into the papal household. He refused to wear the flowing garments of previous popes and insisted upon wearing his white Dominican habit even as head of the Church. To this day, the pope wears white, a custom begun by this Dominican pontiff.

The announced intention of St. Pius V was the carrying out of the decrees of the Council of Trent. He insisted that bishops reside in their diocese under pain of losing their revenues; he made a systematic reform of religious orders, established seminaries, held diocesan synods, and reformed the Breviary and Missal. He brought unity into divine worship, published catechisms, ordered a revision of the Latin Vulgate and revitalized the study of theology and canon law. During his pontificate, the Turks were definitively defeated at the battle of Lepanto, due, it was said, to the prayers of the pope.

Pius V died in 1572, at the age of sixty-eight, deeply grieved by the troubles besieging the whole Church. He was canonized by Pope Clement XI in 1712.

~from Catholic Culture

The Spirit gives life



~by St. Basil the Great

For this cause the Lord, who gives us our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the promise of life. Hence it follows that the answer to our question why the water was associated with the Spirit is clear. The reason is because in baptism two ends were proposed: on the one hand, the destroying of the body of sin, that it may never ripen into death; on the other hand, our coming to life in the Spirit, ripening and having our fruit in holiness. Like a tomb, the water receives the body, symbolizing death; while the Spirit pours in the quickening power, renewing our souls from the deadness of sin into their original life. This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the water bringing the necessary death while the Spirit creates life within us.

In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed. Thus the symbol of death is made complete, and by the passing on of the divine knowledge the baptized have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. So in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel, laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong, of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness – all this so that we can by our own choice achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses.

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the status of adopted sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory – in a word, our being brought into a state of all fullness of blessing both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us. Through faith we behold the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, but we still have wait for the full enjoyment of them. If such is the promise, what will the perfection be like? If these are the first fruits, what will be the complete fulfilment?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Regina Cæli



~from Pope Benedict's Regina Cæli message today at St. Peter's. Translated by Papa Ratzinger Forum.
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, Sunday of the Good Shepherd, also marks the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. All the faithful are exhorted to pray specially for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

This morning, at St. Peter's Basilica, I had the joy of ordaining 22 new priests. Even as I greet these new priests affectionately, along with their families and friends, I invite you to remember how the Lord continues to call by name - as He did one day on the banks of the Lake of Galilee, that they may become 'fishers of men' - on His most direct collaborators in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the service of the Kingdom of God in our time.

Let us ask for all priests the gift of perseverance: that they may keep themselves faithful to praying, that they may celebrate the Holy Mass with ever renewed devotion, that they may live in watchful listening to the Word of the Lord, and that they may assimilate day after day the feelings and attitudes of the Good Shepherd.

Let us also pray for those who are preparing for priesthood and for their educators in the seminaries of Rome, Italy and the entire world. Let us pray for families so that in them, the 'seed' of vocation for the priesthood may continue to bud and mature.

This year, the theme of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is "Vocation in the service of the Church communion". The Second Vatican Council, in order to present the mystery of the Church in our time, has given a privileged place to the category of 'communion.'

This perspective highlights the rich variety of gifts and ministries among the people of God. All those who have been baptized are called on to contribute to the work of salvation....

... At the heart of the Church communion is the Eucharist. The different vocations draw from this Sacrament the spiritual force to constantly edify in charity the one ecclesial Body.

Pope Benedict's Homily for World Day of Vocations


Pope Benedict XVI blesses a newly priest during a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 29, 2007. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN)

~from Papa Ratzinger Forum

Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and priesthood,
dear candidates for ordination,
dear brothers and sisters!

Today's Fourth Sunday of Easter, traditionally called the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, has a particular significance for us who are gathered here today.

It is an absolutely singular day especially for you, dear Deacons, to whom, as Bishop and Pastor of Rome, I am happy to confer Ordination into the priesthood. Thus you will now be part of our 'presbyterium.'

Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and the priests of the diocese, I thank the Lord for the gift of your priesthood which will enrich our community with 22 new pastors.

The theological density of the brief Gospel passage which was proclaimed just now helps us to better understand the sense and the value of this solemn celebration.

Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd who gives eternal life to His sheep (cfr Jn 10,28). The image of the shepherd is well rooted in the Old Testament and dear to the Christian tradition. The title 'shepherd of Israel' is given by the Prophets to the future descendant of David, and also has an undoubted messianic relevance (cfr Ez 34,23).

Jesus is the true Shepherd of Israel, in that He is the Son of He who wished to share the condition of human beings to give them new life and lead them to salvation.

Significantly, to the term 'shepherd', the evangelist adds the adjective kalos, 'beautiful', which he uses only to refer to Jesus and His mission.

Even in the account of the marriage at Cana, the adjective kalos is used twice to describe the wine offered by Jesus, and it is easy to see in that the symbol of the good wine of messianic times (cfr Jn 2,10).

"I give you [my sheep] eternal life, and you will never perish" (Jn 10,28), Jesus says, having said earlier, "The good shepherd offers his life for his sheep" (cfr Jn 10,11).

John uses the verb tithenai- to offer - which he repeats in the next verses (15,17,18). We find the same verb in the account of the Last Supper, when Jesus 'takes off' His outer garments and later 'puts them back on' (cr Jn 13,4.12)

It is clear that this is meant to affirm that the Redeemer disposes of His life in absolute freedom, to be able to offer it and then take it back again freely.

Christ is the true Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep - us - sacrificing Himself on the Cross. He knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him, as the Father knows Him and he knows the Father (cfr Jn 10,14-15).

This refers not to mere intellectual knowledge but to a profound personal relationship - a knowledge of the heart, that of one who loves and is loved; of one who is faithful and one who knows in turn to have faith; a knowledge of love by virtue of which the Shepherd invites His flock to follow Him, and which is manifested fully in the gift of eternal life that He offers them (cfr Jn 10,27-28).

Dear candidates for ordination, may the certainty that Christ does not abandon us and that no obstacle can block the realization of His universal design for salvation be for you a constant consolation - even in difficult days - and of unshakeable hope.

The goodness of the Lord is always with you and is powerful. The Sacrament of Holy Orders which you are about to receive will make you participants in Christ's own mission. You will be called on to spread the seed of His word - the seed that carries in it the Kingdom of God, to dispense divine mercy and to nourish the faithful with His Body and Blood.

To be his worthy ministers, you should nourish yourselves incessantly with the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life - coming to the altar, your daily school of sanctity, of communion with Jesus, so you can enter into His feelings.

In coming to the altar to renew the Sacrifice of the Cross, you will discover more and more the richness and tenderness of the love of the divine Master who calls you today to a more intimate friendship with Him.

If you listen to Him obediently, if you follow Him faithfully, you will learn to translate His love and His passion for the salvation of souls, into your life and pastoral ministry. And each of you, dear priests-to-be, will become, with Jesus's help, a good shepherd, ready to give your own life for Him, if necessary.

That is how it was at the beginning of Christianity with the first disciples, while - as we heard in the first Reading - the Gospel was being spread with attendant consolations and difficulties.

It is worthwhile to underline the last words of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles that we heard earlier: "The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit" (13,52).

Despite misunderstandings and opposition, the Apostle of Christ
does not lose hope; rather he is the witness of that joy that comes from being with the Lord, from love for HIm and for our brothers.

On the World Day of Prayer for Vocations today, which this year has for its theme "Vocation in the service of Church communion", let us pray that all who are chosen for such a high mission may be accompanied by the prayerful communion of all the faithful.

Let us pray that in every parish and Christian community, the attention to vocations and to the formation of priests may grow. Such attention begins in the family, continues in the seminary and involves all who have at heart the salvation of souls.

Dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in this evocative celebration - in the first place, the parents, families and friends of these 22 deacons who will shortly be ordained as priests - let us surround them, our brothers in the Lord, with our spiritual solidarity.

Let us pray that they may be faithful to the mission to which the Lord calls them today, and that they may be ready to renew their Yes to God every day, their "Here I am" without reservations.

And let us ask the Master, on this Day for Vocations, to continue to inspire many priests - and good ones - totally dedicated to the service of the Christian people.

On this moment that is so solemn and important in your existence, I address myself to you affectionately, my dear priests-to-be. Jesus repeats to you today: "I no longer call you servants but friends." Welome and cultivate this divine friendship with 'eucharistic love'.

May you be accompanied by Mary, heavenly Mother of priests - she, who at the foot of the Cross, was united to the Sacrfiice of Her Son, and after the Resurrection, welcomed in the Cenacle, along with the Apostles and other disciples, the gift of the Spirit - may she help each of you, dear brothers in the priesthood, to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by the grace of God.

Only thus is it possible to become faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only thus can one carry out with joy the mission of knowing, guiding and loving the flock that Jesus gained at the cost of His blood. Amen.

Prayer before Mass



O SUPREME High Priest and true Pontiff, Jesus Christ, who didst offer Thyself to God the Father as a pure and spotless Victim upon the Altar of the Cross for us miserable sinners, who didst give us Thy Flesh to eat and Thy Blood to drink, and who didst ordain that Mystery in the power of the Holy Spirit saying: "As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me";

I ask Thee by this same Blood of Thine, the great price of our salvation, and by that wonderful and unspeakable love with which Thou dost love us so much so as to wash us from our sins in Thy Blood, as miserable and unworthy though we are: (teach me, Thy unworthy servant, whom among Thy other gifts, Thou hast deigned to call to the priestly office, not for my own merit but only out of the worthiness of Thy mercy;)

I beseech Thee teach me through Thy Holy Spirit to handle so great a Mystery with such great reverence and honor, with such fear and devotion, as are due and fitting. Through Thy grace make me always to believe and to understand, to conceive and to firmly hold, and to think and speak of this wondrous Mystery in such a way as it pleases Thee and benefits my own soul.

Let Thy good Spirit enter into my heart where He may silently resound and, without clamor of words, speak all truth. For Thy Mysteries are indeed exceedingly deep and covered with a sacred veil. On account of Thy great mercy grant me to assist at the Solemnity of the Mass with a clean heart and a pure mind.

Free my heart from all unclean, unholy, vain and hurtful thoughts. Defend me with a loving and faithful guard, the mighty protection of Thy blessed Angels, so the enemies of all good may go away ashamed. Through the virtue of this great Mystery and by the hand of Thy holy angel, drive away from me and from all Thy servants the stubborn spirit of pride and vain-glory, of impurity and uncleanness, of doubting and mistrust. May those who persecute us be confounded; may they perish those who make haste to destroy us.

~attributed to St. Ambrose

Christ the Good Shepherd



~by St. Gregory the Great

I am the good shepherd. I know my own – by which I mean, I love them – and my own know me. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life. Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture. He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

How to convert Episcopalians

~According to Chris Johnson of MCJ:
Lots of Catholics wonder how best to convert Protestants. Whole web sites have been devoted to the topic. Speaking as a member of the family who found a job out of town, so to speak, I have a few ideas about the topic that seem reasonable(to me, anyway).

What people, particularly Anglicans these days, want more than anything else is a church that is serious. They want a church that actually believes things, that will not trim with the Zeitgeist and will not compromise its beliefs to gain the approval of the secular world.

I know, I know. What about this or that liberal Catholic? What about the fact that this bishop allows that pro-abortion Catholic-in-Name-Only politician to come to Mass and won't refuse him/her Communion? Let me tell you about all the liturgical crap that's going on in my parish! And don't get me started on what passes for Catholic sermons these days!

Valid points, all. But then there's the Catholic Church the rest of us see. The dignity and solemnity of the funeral of John Paul II. The Masses we see on EWTN. The theological and intellectual rigor of Benedict XVI(let's just say that Katharine Jefferts Schori should never be allowed in the same room with Benedict). And leaders like Raymond Burke.

SF Archdiocese refutes BBC claim of 'gay mass'

~via LifeSite

The Archdiocese of San Francisco is refuting the Evening Standard's claim that a service to be broadcast worldwide this Sunday by the BBC from a San Francisco parish is a "gay Mass".

With the headline, "BBC to broadcast gay mass from San Francisco" the Evening Standard reported today that the event, recorded last October 22, was presided over by Jesuit Fr. Donal Godfrey with preaching from one of Britain's leading homosexual theologians, James Allison. The Standard reported that the "Mass" will feature prayers and readings tailored for the gay community.

Maurice Healy, Communications Director for the Archdiocese, however, was adamant that what will be broadcast is neither a Mass nor endorsed by the Archdiocese. Healy told LifeSiteNews.com, "The event was not, repeat not a 'gay mass' it was a prayer service organized by Jesuit father Donal Godfrey."

Healy said, "I'm told that he organized it. It was not an archdiocesan function and the archdiocese was not aware of the BBC broadcast."

More

Excerpts from Pope Benedict's recent addresses

~Zenit has posted translations of some of Pope Benedict's recent addresses. Here are some excerpts:

From the March 31 address to the directors and members of an Italian association of artisans:
In the Bible, the authentic meaning of human work is highlighted in various passages. To start with Genesis, we read that the Creator made man in his image and likeness and invited him to cultivate the earth (cf. Genesis 2:5-6).

Work is consequently inherent in man's original condition. Unfortunately, because of our first parents' sin it became an effort and a penalty (cf. Genesis 3:6-8), but in the divine plan its value has remained unchanged.

And the Church, faithful to God's Word, does not cease to recall the principle: "Work is "for man' and not man "for work'" ("Laborem Exercens," No. 6). Thus, she ceaselessly proclaims the primacy of man over the work of his hands and recalls that it must all be oriented to the true progress of the human person and the common good: capital, science, technology, public resources and even private ownership.

This has been felicitously achieved in the craftwork businesses you represent, which are inspired by the Gospel teachings and the principles of the Church's social doctrine....

...Dear friends, continue with tenacity and perseverance to preserve and put to good use the productive craft culture that can give life to important opportunities for balanced financial progress and encounters between men and peoples.

Furthermore, may you as Christians be committed to living and testifying to the "Gospel of work", in the awareness that the Lord calls all the baptized to holiness through their daily occupations. Josemaría Escrivá, a Saint of our times, notes in this regard that since Christ who worked as a craftsman took it into his hands, "work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man's life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies" (Christ Is Passing By, Homily, n. 47).

From the address following the concert offered him for his 80th birthday
Since the language of music is universal, we see people from completely different cultural and religious backgrounds who let themselves be gripped and likewise guided by it and who also interpret it.

Today, this universal aspect of music is given special emphasis, thanks to the electronic and digital instruments of communications. How many people there are in the most diverse countries who are able to take part in this musical performance at home, or experience it later!

I am convinced that music -- and here I am thinking in particular of the great Mozart and this evening, of course, of the marvellous music by Gabrieli and the majestic "New World" by Dvorák -- really is the universal language of beauty which can bring together all people of good will on earth and get them to lift their gaze on high and open themselves to the Absolute Good and Beauty whose ultimate source is God himself.

In looking back over my life, I thank God for placing music beside me, as it were, as a travelling companion that has offered me comfort and joy. I also thank the people who from the very first years of my childhood brought me close to this source of inspiration and serenity.

I thank those who combine music and prayer in harmonious praise of God and his works: they help us glorify the Creator and Redeemer of the world, which is the marvellous work of his hands.

This is my hope: that the greatness and beauty of music will also give you, dear friends, new and continuous inspiration in order to build a world of love, solidarity and peace.

From the address at his birthday luncheon with several cardinals.
I also thank those who did not write, but thought and prayed. The true gift to me today is prayer, which gives me the certainty that I am accepted from within and above all, assisted and sustained in my Petrine ministry, a ministry which I cannot carry out on my own but only in communion with all who help me, also by praying, so that the Lord may be with all of us and also with me.

Today, in the Office of Readings we recited the words of a Psalm which ring especially true and are very precious to me: "In manibus tuis sortes meae" (Ps 31[30]:16); in the Vetus latina the text was: "In manu tua tempora mea"; the Italian translation says: "Nelle tue mani sono i miei giorni"; the Greek text speaks of kairoi mou [the English translation is "my times are in your hands"].

All these versions mirror a single truth: that our time, every day, the events of our life, our destiny and our action are in the good hands of the Lord. This accounts for the great trust with which we go ahead, knowing that these hands of the Lord are sustained by the hands and hearts of so many Cardinals.

From the March 25 homily at the Roman parish of St. Felicity and Her Children
Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church, a living Temple of his presence. And the priest's role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God's task for each one of us. I see that many here have discovered the project that concerns them, both with regard to professional life in the formation of today's society -- where the presence of Christian consciences is fundamental -- and also with regard to the call to contribute to the Church's growth and life. Both these things are equally important.

A society where Christian conscience is no longer alive loses its bearings; it no longer knows where to go, what it can do, what it cannot do, and ends up in emptiness, it fails. Only if a living awareness of the faith illumines our hearts can we also build a just society. It is not the Magisterium that imposes doctrine. It is the Magisterium that helps enable the conscience itself to hear God's voice, to know what is good, what is the Lord's will. It is only an aid so that personal responsibility, nourished by a lively conscience, may function well and thus contribute to ensuring that justice is truly present in our society: justice within ourselves and universal justice for all our brothers and sisters in the world today. Today, globalization is not only economic: there is also a globalization of responsibilities, this universality, which is why we are all responsible for everyone.

The Church offers us the encounter with Christ, with the living God, with the "Logos" who is Truth and Light, who does not coerce consciences, does not impose a partial doctrine but helps us ourselves to be men and women who are completely fulfilled and thus to live in personal responsibility and in deeper communion with one another, a communion born from communion with God, with the Lord. I see here this living community. I am grateful to the priests, I am grateful to all of you, their collaborators. And I hope that the Lord will help you and enlighten you always.

Advancing the culture of death in Connecticut

~from CNA

The Connecticut state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would require all hospitals — including the four Catholic facilities — to provide the Plan B emergency contraceptive to rape victims. The abortifacient drug is also known as the morning after pill.

“This bill is a violation of the separation of Church and State,” wrote Bishops Henry Mansell of Hartford and William Lori of Bridgeport in a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday. “The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut are responsible for establishing and determining what moral guidelines Catholic institutions should follow; not the Connecticut General Assembly.”

“Senate Bill 1343 should contain language that respects the religious beliefs of Catholic hospitals and not force them to cooperate, either directly or through a third-party contract, in an abortion,” they said.

The bill, which passed 32-3, now heads to the House, where it appears likely to pass, reported the Journal Inquirer.

The bill allows hospitals to first give patients a pregnancy test. Those with religious or other objections could hire an outside physician to administer the contraceptive rather than assign that duty to hospital staff.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference rejected the measure, saying that hiring a physician outside of regular staff would not undo the ethical concern.

"It is clear to us that this approach would involve the hospital in a way that would violate Catholic moral principles of cooperation," the bishop wrote. "It would still involve Catholic hospitals in the performance of early abortions by administering Plan B when the medication cannot act solely as a contraceptive."

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Catholics quiz Archbishop Meyer

~from NJ Star-Ledger

What would you ask Archbishop John Myers if you had the chance to talk to the leader of more than 1 million Catholics in the Newark Archdiocese? If the responses we received when we posed that question a few weeks ago are any indication, you want to talk to him about spiritual, political and financial issues facing the church. The questions asked most often by our readers were about eulogies, about sex-scandal cases and about the decision to bar groups such as Voice of the Faithful from using church facilities.

Q. The topic of ordination of married men and women to the priesthood and diaconate has been discussed as a solution to the dwindling numbers of competent ministers in the church. Does the archbishop expect that women and married men will be welcomed into full participation in ministry in the near future?

A. The topics associated with ordination are examined in an ongoing way by church leadership. Such decisions are reached at a higher level than that of the diocesan bishop. In general, even recent discussions have reached the conclusion first of all that the church is not authorized to ordain women in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and that the Church of the Latin Rite will continue to restrict Ordination of the Priesthood to men who are also called to celibacy. I do not anticipate this discipline changing. Certain Eastern Rites of the Catholic church do ordain married men as well, but they are rare in our area. The same is true of some married clergy converts from other Christian traditions. The church does permit married men who are properly prepared and meet other conditions to be ordained to the Diaconate. I do not anticipate this discipline changing.

Q. How do you reconcile the Catholic church's exclusion of women from the priesthood with Christ's inclusion of women as his followers in ways that often challenged the cultural traditions of His time, (i.e., speaking with the Samaritan woman, traveling with women in his company, etc.).

A. Women played an important part in the life and ministry of Jesus. This is clear from the gospel accounts. It is also clear that, even though Jesus did not hesitate to challenge the culture and society in which he lived, he did not include women among the ordained leadership of the church. This is why the pope and the ecumenical councils have determined that the church is not free to change the practice as established by Jesus. This in no way intends to belittle the role of women in the church. Women have long held significant leadership roles and had great influence in the life of the church. I am confident and happy that this will continue. Both lay women and women religious (sisters and nuns) make great contributions to church life and church administration today on the archdiocesan and parish level. They are great contributors in the decision-making process, pastoral life and Catholic education. Sisters and nuns bring a unique grace to the church community through their witness of community prayer and energetic good works. The Catholic church cherishes the gift of feminine sensitivity and the intuitive insight of laywomen and women religious.

More here

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort


Louis's life is inseparable from his efforts to promote genuine devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus and mother of the church. Totus tuus (completely yours) was Louis's personal motto; Karol Wojtyla chose it as his episcopal motto. Born in the Breton village of Montfort, close to Rennes (France), as an adult Louis identified himself by the place of his baptism instead of his family name, Grignion. After being educated by the Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1700.

Soon he began preaching parish missions throughout western France. His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live very simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with church authorities. In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not the custom then!) and imitation of the Virgin Mary's ongoing acceptance of God's will for her life.

Louis founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, has become a classic explanation of Marian devotion.

Louis died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor. He was canonized in 1947.

~from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

St. Peter Chanel

On April 18, 1841, a band of native warriors entered the hut of Father Peter Chanel on the island of Futuna in the New Hebrides islands near New Zealand. They clubbed the missionary to death and cut up his body with hatchets. Two years later, the whole island was Catholic.
St. Peter Chanel's death bears witness to the ancient axiom that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians." He is the first martyr from Oceania, that part of the world spread over the south Pacific, and he came there as the fulfillment of a dream he had had as a boy.

Peter was born in 1803 in the diocese of Belley, France. At the age of seven, he was a shepherd boy, but the local parish priest, recognizing something unusual in the boy, convinced his parents to let him study, in a little school the priest had started. From there Peter went on to the seminary, where it was said of him: "He had a heart of gold with the simple faith of a child, and he led the life of an angel."

He was ordained a priest and assigned to a parish at Crozet. In three years he had transformed the parish. In 1831, he joined the newly founded Society of Mary, since he had long dreamed of being a missionary; but for five years he was assigned to teach at the seminary in Belley. Finally, in 1836, his dream was realized, and he was sent with other Marists to the islands of the Pacific. He had to suffer great hardships, disappointments, frustration, and almost complete failure as well as the opposition of the local chieftain. The work seemed hopeless: only a few had been baptized, and the chieftain continued to be suspicious and hostile. Then, when the chief's son asked for baptism, the chief was so angry that he sent warriors to kill the missionary.

Peter's violent death brought about the conversion of the island, and the people of Futuna remain Catholic to this day. Peter Chanel was beatified in 1889 and canonized in 1954.

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

Christ gave his own body for the life of all men

~by St. Cyril of Alexandria

“I am dying for all men”, says the Lord. “I am dying to give them life through myself and to redeem the whole human race through my humanity. In my death, death itself will die and man’s fallen nature will rise again with me. I wanted to be like my brothers in every respect, so I became a man like you, a descendant of Abraham”. Understanding this well Saint Paul says: As the children of a family share the same flesh and blood, he too shared our human nature so that by his death he could destroy the power of the devil, the prince of death. Death itself and the prince of death could be destroyed only by Christ, who is above all, giving himself up as a ransom for all.

And so, speaking as a spotless victim offering himself for us to God the Father, Christ says in one of the psalms: You desired no sacrifices or offerings, but you have prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sin offerings. Then I said, “Behold, I am coming”. He was crucified for all, desiring his one death for all to give all of us life in him. It was impossible for him to be conquered by death; nor could he who by his very nature is life be subject to corruption. Yet we know that Christ offered his flesh for the life of the world from his own prayer, Holy Father, protect them, and from his words, For their sake I consecrate myself. By saying that he consecrates himself he means that he offers himself to God as a spotless and sweet-smelling sacrifice. According to the law, anything offered upon the altar was consecrated and considered holy. So Christ gave his own body for the life of all, and makes it the channel through which life flows once more into us. How he does this I will explain to the best of my ability.

When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Rostropovich plays Bach

Introduction from the Lineamenta for the Next Synod

~from the Vatican

WHY A SYNOD ON THE WORD OF GOD?

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:1-4).

1. “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). “The Word of our God will endure for ever” (Is 40:8). The Word of God, present at the creation of the world and humankind, initiates history: “God spoke” (Gn 1, 3,6ff.). The Incarnation of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the most decisive moment in history, is announced by the Word of God: “And the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14). The Word of God will bring history to a close with the sure promise of meeting Christ in everlasting life: “Surely, I am coming soon” (Rev 22:20).

The Word of God is the ultimate surety which God, in his infinite love, gives to people of every age and time, enabling them to become witnesses to his Word. The Synod wishes to reverently contemplate this mystery of the Word, God’s greatest gift, to render thanks for it, to meditate upon it and to proclaim it to all members of the Church and all people of good will.

2. In an increasing number of ways, people today are displaying a great need to listen to God and speak with him. At present, Christians are eagerly seeking the Word of God as the source of life and as a means of encountering the Lord in a personal manner.

Clearly, the unseen God interacts in this personal encounter “out of the abundance of his love; [he] speaks to humankind as friends and lives among them, so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself.”1 This generous act of God’s Revelation is an ongoing, grace-filled event.

This communication takes place through the action of the Holy Spirit, who, through the Word, seeks to renew the life and mission of the Church, to call her to an ongoing conversion and to send her to bring the message of the Gospel to all peoples, so “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

3. The Person of Christ the Lord is at the core of the Word of God. Throughout her history, the Church has constantly experienced and mirrored the mystery of the Word. “What do you believe the Scriptures to be, if not the Word of God? Certainly, many words are penned by the prophets; yet the Word of God is one, uniting the whole of Scripture. The faithful conceive this unique Word from a seed given by God as a lawful spouse, and fruitfully bring it forth from their mouths, so to speak, by giving it birth and recording it in characters, so it can be passed on, even to us.”2

In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council set forth the Church’s solemn Magisterium on the Word of God, explaining its teaching and indicating its practise. This document completed the long study and development of three Encyclical Letters: Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII, Spiritu Paraclitus of Benedict XV and Divino Afflante Spiritu of Pius XII.3 It also represented a stage in the process of renewal in exegesis and theology which was further enriched by the spiritual experience of the faithful and opportunely treated in the Synod of Bishops of 19854 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In the years following the Council, the Magisterium of the universal and local Churches placed greater insistence on an encounter with the Word, convinced that this “will bring the Church to a new spiritual Spring.”5

In the continuing process of God’s breathing forth his Word, this Synodal Assembly is being convoked in close connection with preceding Synods of Bishops (1965-2006). It looks to the foundations of faith and seeks to present how the Word has been encountered in the Bible (cf. Josh 24; Neh 8; Acts 2) and throughout the history of the Church.

4. More specifically, this Synod wishes to set forth, in continuity with the preceding one, the intrinsic connection between the Eucharist and the Word of God, since the Church must receive nourishment from the one “bread of life from the table of both God's word and Christ's body.”6 This is the Synod’s underlying purpose and primary goal, namely, to fully encounter the Word of God in Jesus the Lord, present in the Sacred Scriptures and the Eucharist. St. Jerome observes: “The Lord’s flesh is real food and his blood real drink; this is our true good in this present life: to nourish ourselves with his flesh and to drink his blood in not only the Eucharist but also the reading of Sacred Scripture. In fact, the Word of God, drawn from the knowledge of the Scriptures, is real food and real drink.”7

Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, questions arise as to what are the fruits of the conciliar document, Dei Verbum, in our Church communities and whether this Dogmatic Constitution has really been taken to heart. With regard to the Word of God, many positive things have clearly taken place in the People of God: for example, biblical renewal in the liturgy, theology and catechesis; the distribution and practise of the Bible by the biblical apostolate and efforts of communities and ecclesial movements; and the increased use of the instruments of today’s communication media.

Some things, however, pose problems or still remain an open question. The lack of knowledge and uncertainty regarding the teachings of Revelation are a deep concern. Many Christians remain without any contact with the Bible and the danger is always present that it will not be used properly. Without the truth of God’s Word, relativism becomes alluring in people’s lives and thinking. This situation urgently warrants a total and complete knowledge of the Church’s teachings concerning the Word of God. It also requires employing suitable methods in providing all Christians with opportunities to encounter Sacred Scripture. The Church must take up the new ways suggested by the Spirit today to ensure that the various manifestations of the Word of God be known, discerned, loved, and more profoundly grounded and lived in the Church, thereby becoming the Word of Truth and Love for all people.

5. The purpose of this Synod is primarily pastoral, namely, spreading and strengthening encounters with the Word of God by thoroughly examining its doctrinal underpinnings and allowing them to show the manner in which this is to be done. This will lead to experiencing the Word of God as the source of life in everyday circumstances and devising true and readily available ways in which Christians and all people of good will can listen to God and speak with him.

In a concrete sense, the Synod intends among its many objectives: to help clarify the basic truths of Revelation as the Word of God, Divine Tradition, the Bible and the Magisterium, which prompt and guarantee an authentic and effective living of the faith; to spark an appreciation and deep love of Sacred Scripture so that “the faithful might have easy access” to it;8 to renew listening to the Word of God, in the liturgy and catechesis, specifically through lectio divina, duly adapted to various circumstances; and to offer a Word of consolation and hope to the poor of the world.

This Synod desires to give the Word of God as bread to the People of God. Its aim is to foster a proper approach to biblical hermeneutics and to correctly direct the process of evangelization and inculturation. It also intends to encourage ecumenical dialogue, which is closely linked to listening to the Word of God and to promote an encounter and dialogue of not only Christians and Jews9 but also those engaged in interreligious and inter-cultural dialogue. The synod proposes to achieve this task by treating the following three areas:

— Revelation, the Word of God, the Church (Chapter I)
— The Word of God in the Life of the Church (Chapter II)
— The Word of God in the Mission of the Church (Chapter III).

In this way, the foundational elements of the Word of God might be united to its operation in the Church.

The Lineamenta does not intend to treat every demand and application of encountering the Word of God. Rather, drawing on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, this document will describe the essential characteristics of the Word of God, emphasizing both its doctrinal content and that drawn from experience and inviting the reader to provide further detailed information.

Read More

Mstislav Rostropovich, RIP

~a legendary musical giant has died. Rest in peace, Slava. And thanks for musical delights that breathed life into my ordinary existence.

Pope Benedict to visit the UN

~from CWN

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation to visit UN headquarters in New York, the Vatican announced on April 27.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the Holy Father has accepted the invitation that was extended to him by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, who met with the Pope at the Vatican on April 18.

For now "there is no date or program" for the Pope's trip, Father Lombardi said.

Pope John Paul II visited the UN twice during his pontificate: in 1979 and in 1995. Pope Paul VI became the first Roman Pontiff to speak at the UN, and the first to visit the Western hemisphere, in 1965.

Getting ready for Bella Roma

~The countdown seems to accelerate the closer we get to departure date...a thousand details to attend to, fighting against the all-too-human tendency to our own self-importance -- "I can't leave right now. There'll be a mess when I get back." What? Am I crazy? We're talking Italy here. The mess can take care of itself. It's nice to have our muses to remind us of what's really important....Here There Are Lions: Rilke on contemplating Rome.

BBC to broadcast gay mass from San Francisco

~from This is London

The BBC is to relay a 'gay Mass' from San Francisco this Sunday, the first time such a service has been broadcast.

The 50-minute Mass at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the predominantly gay Castro district of the city will feature prayers and readings tailored for the gay community.

The church has been described as an "inspiration" to gay and lesbian Christians around the world because of its ministry to homosexuals.

Its parish priest, Father Stephen Meriweather, blesses participants in the San Francisco's annual gay pride march.

But it has also infuriated many Catholics in the U.S. who have complained about such activities as transvestite bingo nights during which sex toys and pornographic DVDs were handed out as prizes.

Last night a media watchdog said Sunday's radio broadcast was "bound to cause offence" to mainstream Christians.

John Beyer of Mediawatch UK, an organisation which campaigns for standards in the media, said he thought it was a mistake to broadcast the service.

"Religious broadcasting, apart from Songs of Praise, tends to focus on the out-of-the-ordinary and having this particular service I think will cause offence to people who feel that such practices are wrong and are taught as such in holy scripture," Mr Beyer said.

"The BBC really ought to be focusing on mainstream services which are more in keeping with the public service requirement that it has."

However, Father Donal Godfrey, the U.S. Jesuit priest celebrating the Mass, said he was delighted the BBC was "exploring how gay people fit into the perspective of the Christian narrative".

"Being gay is not special," he said. "It's simply another gift from God who created us as rainbow people."

The recording will go out at 8.10am to two million listeners on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship programme.

The preacher will be James Alison - a homosexual British Catholic theologian and author of 'Is it ethical to be Catholic? - Queer perspectives'.

Weeks after the BBC finished recording the service last October, it emerged that a transvestite group calling themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence regularly staged lewd and irreverent bingo nights on the church premises.

The San Francisco archdiocese-stopped the events when it was discovered that prizes of a sexual nature were being handed out by the group, who dress as nuns.

In the past members of the group have paraded naked through the city advertising a 'hunky Jesus' contest. Their motto is: 'Go and sin some more.'

A spokesman for BBC Radio 4 said: "The strength of Sunday Worship is its diversity. It aims to reflect a variety of Christian spiritualities, and for that reason, when editorially appropriate - on average about once a quarter - comes from outside the UK.

"Taking the theme "Finding a place in the Christian narrative" this programme comes from the largest and oldest predominantly gay area in the world, from a Catholic community which has an experienced and developed understanding of the issues of being gay and Christian.

"As far as we know this is the first time the subject of being gay and Christian has been explored by the programme."

The Roman Catholic Church holds that sex belongs in the context of heterosexual marriage and that gay sex is "objectively disordered".

However, it also teaches that homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful and that gays and lesbians must be treated with respect and be free from unjust discrimination.

The Over-praised Generation

~from Bettnet, Dom writes:

The “most-praised” generation has been told it’s great and special so often that as they enter the work force they’re feeling a praise deficit that some companies are trying to make up.
Employers are dishing out kudos to workers for little more than showing up. Corporations including Lands’ End and Bank of America are hiring consultants to teach managers how to compliment employees using email, prize packages and public displays of appreciation. The 1,000-employee Scooter Store Inc., a power-wheelchair and scooter firm in New Braunfels, Texas, has a staff “celebrations assistant” whose job it is to throw confetti — 25 pounds a week — at employees. She also passes out 100 to 500 celebratory helium balloons a week. The Container Store Inc. estimates that one of its 4,000 employees receives praise every 20 seconds, through such efforts as its “Celebration Voice Mailboxes.
How good can automated, mandated, or programmed praise and compliments makes you feel?
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US Church membership rising

~from CNS via Catholic Online

Total membership in U.S. Christian churches continued to rise in 2005, despite ongoing declines in some of the country's largest mainline Protestant churches, according to the 2007 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

Total recorded inclusive membership in 2005 was 165,878,323, up more than 2.4 million from the previous year, the yearbook said.

The 439-page yearbook is an annual publication of the New York-based National Council of Churches. This year's book is the council's 75th edition.

It lists U.S. and Canadian church bodies, with a brief description of each and its national headquarters, officers, periodicals and major agencies or boards.

It also includes directories of U.S. and Canadian seminaries, religious periodicals, ecumenical organizations, cooperative religious organizations, institutions engaged in religious research and a selective directory of non-Christian religious organizations.

Because it relies on data collected by the church bodies, the 2007 yearbook covers 2005 data gathered by the churches in 2006. The yearbook reports what year the figures come from, since not all churches collect new data every year.

The Catholic Church remained the largest Christian church in the U.S. in 2005 with a reported membership of 69,135,254, or nearly 42 percent of all Christian church membership.

With an increase of 1.94 percent over its previous year's total, the Catholic Church was also among the fastest-growing of the nation's 25 largest churches, followed closely by the Assemblies of God, which recorded 1.86 percent growth, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with 1.63 percent growth.

In 2004 the Catholic Church came in third behind the other two in rate of growth. Because of annual fluctuations, a better indicator of trends is membership change over a longer period, such as a decade.

Between the 1997 and 2007 yearbooks, the recorded change in Catholic population was from 60.3 million to 69.1 million, or an increase of 15 percent. The Assemblies of God recorded growth of nearly 19 percent in that decade, and the Latter-day Saints grew by nearly 21 percent.

Six mainline Protestant bodies among the 25 largest churches showed losses in membership in 2005. The United Church of Christ was down 3.28 percent; the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2.84 percent; American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1.97 percent; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1.62 percent; Episcopal Church, 1.59 percent; and United Methodist Church, 1.36 percent.

Three of these, the Episcopalians, Presbyterians and United Church of Christ, lost more than 10 percent of their membership between 1995 and 2005.

As in other recent years, overall seminary enrollment in the United States and Canada grew, reaching 81,302 in 2005. That was only 529 more than the previous year, however - less than the average growth of about 2,000 a year over the previous seven years.

Enrollment declined slightly in Canada, from 7,036 to 6,950. In the United States it grew from 73,737 to 74,352.

The cross of Christ gives life to the human race



~by St. Ephrem

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.

At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognise the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

~via Catholic Church Conservation from Kreuz.net

A Church in a Dutch Diocese was going to be suppressed but then traditionalists set themselves to work.

The Fraternity of St Peters has been caring for the Church of St Agnes in Amsterdam since December 2006. The Fraternity came at the express with of the Parish Council. The priest of St Agnes, Fr F Braam is going into retirement in 2008. The Diocese could not find a successor. The Church was going to be closed.

It was for this reason that the Parish Council invited the Fraternity of St Peters for a six month trial period.

And it bore fruit- the Fraternity reports this in theApril edition of their monthly news. In as little as three months, the participation of the Faithful in the Masses has increased enormously. The number of confessions has grown “considerably”. The Fraternity had to find servers and children and youth are in the Church once again.

Father Braam wishes them much success.

Introducing the traditional liturgy has effected many changes “Many unknown Faithful from many areas arrive for the Sunday Mass”. The Church has been given a new life.

The members of the Parish Church are very satisfied with the arrival of the Fraternity.

A parishioners, Udit Kolster remembers how low the number of Faithful was at the Sunday Mass and how the life of the Church was almost extinguished. Then suddenly, a young father came and in a short space of time, the Church received a new lease of life.

The Church of St Agnes has become a place of a renewed and invigorated Faith for many.

“The profundity of the Tridentine Mass has attracted many newcomers and has led to many interesting conversations on the deepening of Faith”.
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Go to Chris' site to watch the video.

Music for a slow news day

...from Magnatune, here is Ensemble Mirabile playing music of Jean Zewalt Triemer. Be careful, though, the lilting music will soon hypnotize you and you'll find yourself waltzing through the room . Grab your child and waltz with them. (What with the MP to look forward to, and it is the Easter season...what other reason do you need to be joyful?)

Conversion: The Search for Unity

~Here is a conversion story that I found at Catholic Daily.
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Me? Catholic? If someone told me two years ago that I'd be Catholic today, I likely would have laughed at them. There wasn't a chance in the world I'd end up Catholic... unless, of course, God himself told me to go there, and that just wasn't going to happen!

But something did happen. I fell in love with a man who is Catholic. We both agreed that our meeting was divinely orchestrated. We were meant to be together. I had been looking for the right Christian my whole life, and there he was! But I had my work cut out for me because he was a...Catholic. I thought it would be a simple fix. All I had to do was show him the error of the Catholic Church, coupled with a lot of prayer and eventually he'd see the light and leave, to gladly join me in my own non-denominational, Christ-centered, Bible-only church. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of my own journey into the Catholic faith.

We began to struggle whenever issues of faith came up in our relationship. It wasn't long before we couldn't even discuss God at all. This brought up a serious issue in my mind. We lacked unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." I asked myself how it could be that we could both be Christians but have such horribly opposing views. We tried to come to a common ground, agreeing to disagree and focus on the "essentials"...but that didn't work out very well.

The lack of unity within our relationship caused me to take a closer look at Christianity altogether. I realized that this lack of unity extended into the various denominations. This is how new churches get started all the time. Someone decides they don't like what's being taught and they go start a new church, with their own teaching, by their own authority. These denominations somehow find this acceptable by saying they share essential beliefs while disagreeing on non-essential beliefs. The problem? Who gets to decide what is essential and what is non-essential and where in the Bible does it tell us what is or is not essential?

The relativism that was coming into focus, rocked me to the core. How would I be able to know what was true if no one could agree on anything? If everyone was using the Bible alone to know the truth, why were there so many different interpretations? It frightened me, because for the first time in my life, I wondered if I should even be a Christian at all. This was my deepest moment of brokenness. Everything I had ever known about faith and God was now being questioned and I longed for unity, within my relationship and within the body of Christ.

I had no idea where to begin at this point. I had asked the age-old question, "What is truth?" The only place I knew where to look was to God and his Word. I was informed that the Catholic Church had been around for 2000 years and that a close examination of the Early Church Fathers would reveal that the early Christians were Catholics. But before I could even consider the writings of the Early Church Fathers, I had to figure out whether or not I could even trust what they wrote. After all, what if they messed things up? What if they didn't hold to what the apostles taught?

It's important to note that a few months prior, I didn't even know who the Early Church Fathers were. I had never heard of them. How could it have been that I spent my entire life attending church and never once heard about these very early Christians?

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Finding the masculine genius

~an interview with Anthony Esolen by Zenit

Q: There has been a lot of discussion based upon Pope John Paul II's discussion of "the feminine genius." What about the "the masculine genius"?

Esolen:
Men have a passion for the truth, and they seek that truth not generally by means of the affections, but by complex structures of various sorts.

These may be structures of authority or intellect, so you have the great university system invented by the friars and the student guilds in Europe, whose curriculum was often a kind of Euclidean geometry or Newtonian calculus of theological and philosophical propositions.

Men fashion "grammars" -- means of organizing and understanding almost impossibly disparate phenomena. Even the humble back of a baseball card, with its grid work of subtle statistics, testifies to this fascination.

Without this literal "discernment," I mean the clear separation of what may be predicated of a thing and what may not, with systematic means for judging the matter, there can be nothing so intricate as law, the government of a city, higher learning, a church -- not to mention philosophy and theology.

Even men who do not possess powerful intellects naturally fall in with such structures of order, and here the affections do play a vital role; men will fall in admiration of a leader, with a powerful combination of loyalty and friendship, as naturally as they will fall in love with a woman they may wish to marry.

If a society does not train boys to become such men, or if it does not allow mature men to form such natural alliances with other men for the benefit of civic life, it will degenerate.

I won't claim that this is a theory. It's a fact borne out by American and European cities right now.

Q: What could men learn from Christ, the ultimate man, in terms of developing masculinity?

Esolen:
The first thing they could learn is not to be embarrassed by their manhood. It is holy! It has been created by God, and for a reason.

Then they might notice that Jesus is not the cute boyfriend that many of our churches make him out to be, the one who never goes too far -- forgive me if that is a little coarse.

Jesus loves women, as all good men must; Jesus obeys his mother at Cana; but Jesus does not hang around the skirts of women; he speaks gently, but as a man speaks gently, and when he rebukes, he rebukes forthrightly and clearly, as a man.

His closest comrades are men, though they are not necessarily the people he loves best in the world. He organizes them into a battalion of sacrifice.

He is remarkably sparing in his praise of them; certainly, as is the case with many good and wise men, he is much more desirous that they should come to know him than that they should feel comfortable about themselves.

From his apostles he seems to prefer the love that accompanies apprehension of the truth, rather than love born of his own affectionate actions toward them.

In fact, they respond to him as men often respond: They admire and follow with all the greater loyalty the man who rebukes them for, of all things, being frightened when it appears their ship will capsize in the stormy Sea of Galilee!

Men can learn from Jesus to seek the company of other men, at least in part for the sake of women, and certainly for the sake of the village, the nation, the Church and the world.

They can learn that there are two ways at least in which man is not meant to be alone: He needs the complementary virtues of woman, and he needs other men.

A soldier alone is no soldier.

Interview with Archbishop Ranjith

~Fr Z has posted Gerard O’Connell's interview with Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith speaking about the post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis. Here's a small portion of the interview which you may find at UCAN:"
UCA NEWS: How has the liturgical renewal initiated by Vatican Council II been carried out in Asia? What are its positive achievements and negative results?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Generally, there have been many changes in the way liturgy was celebrated in Asia since the Council. Some of us who were brought up in childhood under the liturgical orientations of pre-conciliar times know what these new changes were and how they affected our life as Catholics.

As your question indicates, there has been a mixed bag of results. Among the positive changes, I see the use of vernacular languages in the Liturgy, which helped to lead the faithful to better understand the Word of God, the rubrics of the Liturgy itself, and a more responsive and shared participation in the celebration of the sacred mysteries.

Adaptations to local cultural practices have also been tried, though not always with good results. The use of the vernacular has at times helped in generating a theological vocabulary in the local idiom that eventually could be helpful to evangelization and the presentation of the message of the Gospel to those of non-Christian religious traditions, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the people of Asia.

Some negative aspects have been the quasi total abandonment of the Latin language, tradition and chant; a far too facile interpretation of what could be absorbed from local cultures into the Liturgy; a sense of misunderstanding of the true nature, content and meaning of the Roman rite and its norms and rubrics, which led to an attitude of free experimentation; a certain anti-Roman "feeling," and an uncritical acceptance of all kinds of "novelties" resulting from a secularizing and humanistic theological and liturgical mindset overtaking the West.

These novelties were often introduced, perhaps unknowingly, by some foreign missionaries who brought them from their own mother countries or by locals who had been to those countries on visits or for studies and had let themselves be uncritically absorbed into a kind of "free spirit" that some circles had created around the Council.

The abandonment of the spheres of the Sacred, the Mystical and the Spiritual, and their replacement by a kind of empiricist horizontalism was most harmful to the spirit of what truly constituted Liturgy.

The Eucharist, pledge of our resurrection



~by St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies

If our flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us with his blood, the eucharistic chalice does not make us sharers in his blood, and the bread we break does not make us sharers in his body. There can be no blood without veins, flesh and the rest of the human substance, and this the Word of God actually became: it was with his own blood that he redeemed us. As the Apostle says: In him, through his blood, we have been redeemed, our sins have been forgiven.

We are his members and we are nourished by creatures, which is his gift to us, for it is he who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall. He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body.

When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow. How then can it be said that flesh belonging to the Lord’s own body and nourished by his body and blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life? Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones. He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones, nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.

The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.

On Origen of Alexandria


Pope Benedict XVI gestures to a group of faithful who were loudly acknowledging their presence, during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday April 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)

~Pope Benedict's general audience address translated by Zenit

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our meditations on the great figures of the ancient Church, today we will get to know one of the most outstanding. Origen of Alexandria is one of the key people for the development of Christian thought. He draws on the teachings he inherited from Clement of Alexandria, whom we reflected upon last Wednesday, and brings them forward in a totally innovative way, creating an irreversible turn in Christian thought.

He was a true teacher; this is how his students nostalgically remembered him: not only as a brilliant theologian, but as an exemplary witness of the doctrine he taught. "He taught," wrote Eusebius of Caesarea, his enthusiastic biographer, "that one's conduct must correspond to the word, and it was for this reason above all that, helped by God's grace, he led many to imitate him" (Hist. Eccl. 6,3,7).

His entire life was permeated by a desire for martyrdom. He was 17 years old when, in the 10th year of Septimius Severus' reign, the persecution against Christians began in Alexandria.

Clement, his teacher, left the city, and Origen's father, Leonides, was thrown into prison. His son ardently yearned for martyrdom, but he would not be able to fulfill this desire. Therefore, he wrote to his father, exhorting him to not renounce giving the supreme witness of the faith. And when Leonides was beheaded, young Origen felt he must follow the example of his father.

Forty years later, while he was preaching in Caesarea, he said: "I cannot rejoice in having had a father who was a martyr if I do not persevere in good conduct and I do not honor the nobility of my race, that is to the martyrdom of my father and the witness he gave in Christ" (Hom. Ez. 4,8).

In a later homily -- when, thanks to the extreme tolerance of Emperor Philip the Arab, the possibility of ever becoming a martyr seemed to fade -- Origen exclaimed: "If God would consent to let me be washed in my blood, receiving a second baptism by accepting death for Christ, I would surely go from this world. … But blessed are they who merit these things" (Hom. Lud. 7.12).

These words reveal Origen's nostalgia for the baptism by blood. And finally, this irresistible desire was, in part, fulfilled. In 250, during the persecution by Decius, Origen was arrested and cruelly tortured. Severely weakened by the sufferings he endured, he died a few years later. He was not yet 70 years old.

We mentioned earlier the "irreversible turn" that Origen caused in the history of theology and Christian thought. But in what did this "turn" consist, this turning point so full of consequences?

In substance, he grounded theology in the explanations of the Scriptures; or we could also say that his theology is the perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. In truth, the characterizing mark of Origen's doctrine seems to reside in his incessant invitation to pass from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in the knowledge of God.

And this "allegoristic" approach, wrote von Balthasar, coincides precisely "with the development of Christian dogma carried out by the teachings of the doctors of the Church," who -- in one way or another -- accepted the "lesson" of Origen. In this way, Tradition and the magisterium, foundation and guarantee of theological research, reach the point of being "Scripture in act" (cf. "Origene: il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa," tr. it., Milano 1972, p. 43).

We can say, therefore, that the central nucleus of Origen's immense literary works consists in his "three-pronged reading" of the Bible. But before talking about this "reading," let us look at the literary production of the Alexandrian.

St. Jerome, in his Epistle 33, lists the titles of 320 books and 310 homilies by Origen. Unfortunately most of those works are now lost, but the few surviving works make him the most prolific author of the first three Christian centuries. His array of interests extended from exegesis to dogma, to philosophy, to apologetics, to asceticism and to mysticism. It is an important and global vision of Christian life.

The inspirational core of this work is, as we mentioned earlier, the "three-pronged reading" of the Scriptures developed by Origen during his life. With this expression we are alluding to the three most important ways -- not in any order of importance -- with which Origen dedicated himself to the study of Scripture.

He read the Bible with the intent to understand the text as best he could and to offer a trustworthy explanation. This, for example, is the first step: to know what is actually written and to know what this text wanted to say intentionally and initially. He carried out a great study with this in mind and created an edition of the Bible with six parallel columns, from right to left, with the Hebrew texts written in Hebrew -- Origen had contact with rabbis to better understand the original Hebrew text of the Bible.

He then transliterated the Hebrew text into Greek and then did four different translations into Greek, which permitted him to compare the various possibilities for translation. This synopsis is called "Hexapla" (six columns). This is the first point: to know exactly what is written, the text in itself.

The second "reading" is Origen's systematic reading of the Bible along with its most famous commentaries. They faithfully reproduce the explanations give by Origen to his students, in Alexandria and Caesarea. He proceeds almost verse by verse, probing amply and deeply, with philological and doctrinal notes. He works with great attention to exactness to better understand what the sacred authors wanted to say.

In conclusion, even before his ordination, Origen dedicated himself a great deal to the preaching of the Bible, adapting himself to varied audiences. In any case, as we see in his Homilies, the teacher, dedicated to systematic interpretation of verses, breaks them down into smaller verses.

Also in the Homilies, Origen takes every opportunity to mention the various senses of sacred Scripture that help or express a way of growth in faith: There is the "literal" sense, but this hides depths that are not apparent upon a first reading; the second dimension is the "moral" sense: what we must do as we live the Word; and in the end we have the "spiritual" sense, the unity of Scripture in its diversity.

This would be interesting to show. I tried somewhat, in my book "Jesus of Nazareth," to show the multiple dimensions of the Word in today's world, of sacred Scripture, that must first of all be respected in the historical sense. But this sense brings us toward Christ, in the light of the Holy Spirit, and shows us the way, how to live.

We find traces of this, for example in the ninth Homily on Numbers, where Origen compares the Scriptures to nuts: "The doctrine of the Law and of the Prophets in the school of Christ," he affirms, "is bitter reading, like the peel, after which you come to the shell which is the moral doctrine, in the third place you will find the meaning of the mysteries, where the souls of the saints are fed in this life and in the next" (Hom. Num. 9,7).

Following along this path, Origen began promoting a "Christian reading" of the Old Testament, brilliantly overcoming the challenge of the heretics -- above all the Gnostics and the Marcionites -- who ended up rejecting the Old Testament.

The Alexandrian wrote about this in the same Homily on Numbers: "I do not call the Law an 'Old Testament,' if I understand it in the Spirit. The Law becomes an 'Old Testament' only for those that what to understand it in terms of the flesh," that is to say, stopping at the mere reading of the text. But, "for us, we who understand it and apply it in the Spirit and in the sense of the Gospel, the Law is ever new, and the two Testaments are for us a new Testament, not because of a temporal date, but because of the newness of the meaning. … For the sinner on the other hand and those who do not respect the pact of charity, even the Gospels get old" (Hom. Num. 9,4).

I invite you to welcome the teachings of this great teacher of the faith into your hearts. He reminds us that in the prayerful reading of Scripture and in a coherent way of life, the Church is renewed and rejuvenated.

The Word of God, which never ages or has its meaning exhausted, is a privileged way of doing this. It is the Word of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, which leads us always to the whole truth (cf. Benedict XVI, international congress for the 40th anniversary of the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum," in Insegnamenti, vol. I, 2005, pp. 552-553).

Let us ask the Lord to enable us thinkers, theologians and exegetes of today to find this multidimensional nature, this permanent validity of sacred Scripture.

We pray that the Lord will help us to read the sacred Scriptures in a prayerful way, to really nourish ourselves on the true bread of life, his Word.