Thursday, January 31, 2008

Church must speak out on bioethics, says Pope

~from CWN
The Church "certainly cannot and should not intervene on every scientific innovation," the Holy Father told the CDF members, who are in Rome for a plenary meeting this week. However, he continued, the teaching magisterium has an obligation to provide the faithful with the "ethical-moral principals and guidelines for these new and important questions."

The Pope defended the Church against critics who treat the faith "as if it were an obstacle to science." In fact, he said, "the Church appreciates and encourages progress in the biomedical sciences." The pastoral task for the Church, he explained, is to "enlighten everyone's consciences so that scientific progress may be truly respectful of all human beings."

Pope Benedict said that the moral analysis of bioethical issues should be based upon two fundamental themes: "unconditional respect for the human being as a person, from conception to natural death; and respect for the origin of the transmission of human life through the acts of the spouses."

These general principles, the Pope continued, should be applied to new ethical challenges, including "the freezing of human embryos, embryonal reduction, pre-implantation diagnosis, stem-cell research and attempts at human cloning." Each one of these techniques, he said, entails serious moral problems, illustrating that "with artificial insemination outside the body, the barrier protecting human dignity has been broken."

The Holy Father drove home his point with a rhetorical question:

When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless stage of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure biological matter, how can it be denied that they are no longer being treated as "someone" but as "something," thus placing the very concept of human dignity in doubt.

I have always laboured out of love

~by St. John Bosco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. John Bosco, priest

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

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

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

~from Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo Lodi

Locus iste

For your meditation today here is a motet by Anton Bruckner with the text:

Locus iste a Deo factus est, inaestimabile sacramentum, irreprehensibilis est.

This place was made by God, a priceless mystery; it is without reproof.

One of my best experiences as a chorister was to sing this in a 16-voice choir for a church consecration. The reverb was 7 seconds, a dangerous thing if you sing without awareness of your space. But for this venue, our director had superb subtlety and the sound that came back to us was heartachingly beautiful.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vocations Holy Hour

~Ahead of our Diocesan First Friday Vocations Holy Hour, here are a couple of excerpts about vocations. The first from Bishop Serratelli of the Diocese of Paterson, NJ: Creating a Climate for Vocations.
With all the changes in the way that the Church accomplishes Her divine mission, priests remain essential. Christ chose to gift the Church with the priesthood as the means to continue his presence and action among us. He took great care in preparing the very first priests of the Church.

When Jesus began his public ministry, he already signaled the need he had for intimate collaborators in the work of redemption. When he met Peter and Andrew, and James and John along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he conquered them with his look of love and spoke to them of his intention: “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!” (Mk 1:17; cf. Mt 4:19). These were the ones he made his first priests at the Last Supper.

Jesus was able to change the direction of these men’s lives because they heard his voice and listened when he called them. Herein lies both the mystery of vocation and the way for all of us to cooperate in the work of vocations. For someone to respond to the call of God, the individual first needs to be “educated” to listen to the voice of God. This is what Eli did, when he helped the young Samuel to understand what God was asking of him (cf 1 Sam 3:9). There are a few ways that each of us can contribute to this education of young people to hear the call of God to the special vocation of the priesthood.

First, we need to create an atmosphere where faithful listening to God’s voice can take place. This happens when each of us lives in such a way that our young people can see that God is real, that God matters. A community that is materialistic and not spiritual, this worldly and not otherworldly, will yield a poor harvest of vocations. But a community that lives the gospel of Jesus who draws us from the prison of our own self into the adventure of a divine love will see vocations multiply like the loaves and fishes. Where the Church is holy, where we are holy, vocations flourish.

Secondly, according to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations. We are to pray untiringly and together. After preaching and healing in the towns and villages of the Galilee, Jesus saw the crowds that followed him. He looked with compassion on those who were hungering for physical and spiritual healing. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Mt 9:38). The invitation is in the plural: it is to all of us to pray earnestly. Vocations are gifts that only God can give. He gives them readily to communities that long to have them and sincerely pray for them.

Third, at the center of every Christian community is the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church. “Eucharistic love” is the source and motivation for the vocational activity of the whole Church. Vocations to the priesthood flourish wherever Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is a treasure, a daily bread, a gift to be received and shared with others. Mass every day and Eucharistic adoration foster vocations more than we can imagine.

Fourth, in a recent survey of men scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood, 78% of them said that a priest invited them to consider the priesthood. In a poll of young adult Catholics, only 15% indicated that they had been encouraged to think about a vocation to the religious life or priesthood. All of us, and most especially priests, must be unafraid to invite young people to think of the priesthood.

There is one last way to foster vocations beyond the four already mentioned. It is a simple way, an easy way. Respect, honor and love your priests. At a time when it is all too easy for the media to tear down the great work that the priests are doing for the common good, we need to build up our priests. They work hard and long and faithfully. Tell them you appreciate them. Pass on stories of their goodness to others. Create the climate where priesthood is valued and priests are loved. A positive appreciation of priests will encourage the young to follow Jesus who calls them.

Since God has established the Church as the sign and sacrament of salvation (cf Lumen Gentium, l), the Good Shepherd never abandons the Church. He constantly calls certain individuals to continue his work as priests. He also expects us to do our part in helping those whom He calls to hear his voice. Creating a climate for vocations is the work of the whole Church.
The second from Archbishop Chaput

11. How best can we prepare men for this marriage to the Church? The great Eastern Father, Gregory Nazianzus, wrote that, “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently.” John Paul II has
echoed Nazianzus’s insight in his division of priestly formation into four main areas of focus mentioned above. (PDV, Chapter 5).
Human formation: “. . . purifying ourselves before purifying others.”

12. Every priest is called to be the “living image” of Jesus, and therefore “should seek to reflect in himself, as far as possible, the human perfection which shines forth in the incarnate Son of God . . .the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not anobstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ” (43).

13. The human perfection of Christ does not make Him less fully human but precisely more so. He is what God wills all of us to become. The priest becomes more human, not less, by striving for the full human maturity which shows itself in the natural virtues. Thus the Holy Father writes that, “Future priests should therefore cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry. These qualities are needed for them to be balanced people, strong and free, capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities. They need to be educated to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially, to be balanced in judgment and behavior” (43).

14. As is the case for any believer, priests should not simply excuse or underestimate the common human failings against which they struggle, in the way some modern psychologies suggest. Especially when such weaknesses may give scandal, real humility requires that we not merely recognize our failings but call on the grace of God to strengthen us where we are humanly weak. This is what St.
Paul means when he declares, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9).

15. John Paul II particularly stresses the importance of an affective maturity which lays the foundation for the priest’s whole gift of himself in all the relationships to which his ministry calls him. Without the capacity to express and receive a mature, brotherly love which embraces all the “physical, psychic and spiritual” aspects of the human person, the obligations of the priesthood become a
burden. This is particularly true of the charism of celibacy, which must be built upon an “affective maturity which is prudent, able to renounce anything that is a threat to it, vigilant over both body and spirit, and capable of esteem and respect in interpersonal relationships between men and women” (44).

16. For the celibate priest, the “nuptial meaning of the body” is expressed by reserving physical sexual expression in the same way that Jesus did. Just as Christ offered Himself on the cross as a consummation of the marriage between Himself and the Church, it is by making of their bodies a spiritual sacrifice (Rm 12:1) that priests wed themselves to the Bride of Christ. “The Church, as the Spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive manner in which Jesus Christ her head and Spouse loved her” (29).

...19. A proper human formation leads to an openness to the possibility of sanctity. That possibility is realized through intimacy with God in the Trinity. “Spiritual formation,” declares John Paul, “should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” (PDV, 45, quoting the Second
Vatican Council’s Decree on the Training of Priests [Optatam Totius; OT], 8.)

20. As the Holy Father teaches, Christ is the key to entry into that divine communion of love. “Those who take on the likeness of Christ the priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their lives” (ibid., emphasis added). In his apostolic letter As the Third Millennium Draws Near (Tertio Millennio Adveniente; TMA) John Paul II adds, “It is therefore necessary to inspire in all the faithful a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbor” (42). Without daily prayer a priest cannot meet the responsibilities of his vocation. This is true for Christians in every vocation — but how much more so for the priest, who must serve as a kind of scout, guide and agent of hope for those who choose to tread the spiritual path cut by Christ, the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2).

Lewis and Short Online here. (Hat tip to TNLM).

I remember parting from QM one night close to midnight in Roma. Concerned, I asked if she needed an escort. She waved her Lewis and Short and said that she would whack any aggressor with it.

Plans for a new Catholic college in Michigan

~from CNA.

Organizers with the Cardinal Newman Liberal Arts Project believe they have found a good location for a new Catholic college in the town of Otsego, Michigan, the Grand Rapids Press reports.

According to the Cardinal Newman Liberal Arts Project website, the organization is “a lay initiative seeking to establish a baccalaureate curriculum” as envisioned in the work of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s “The Idea of a University” and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Fides et Ratio.” It hopes to name the proposed school Newman College.

Project leader Ronald Muller says the St. Margaret Catholic Church building and campus, which will be left vacant after the parish moves to a new location, will be ideal for a liberal arts school.

“The site would just really lend itself to a liberal arts college," Muller told the Grand Rapids Press.
The 60-year-old church building, which seats 300, could be used for dramatic performances, musical events, and lectures. The adjacent rectory could be used for classrooms and the extra land on the property could one day accommodate a dormitory.

"Both we and the parish would like very much to see the building used or have a new life [as] a college," Muller said to the Grand Rapids Press. "A church building like that isn't something you can easily renovate and use for a business or another purpose."

The church was originally listed at $750,000, but has not sold for two years. St. Margaret’s pastor Fr. Don Klingler was optimistic about a possible agreement.

"If this goes through, I think most people will see it as a win-win situation for the town, for the college, for St. Margaret's, for the diocese," Father Klingler said to the Grand Rapids Press.

The purchase of the St. Margaret campus will require the blessing of James Murray, Bishop of Kalamazoo. City zoning will also need to be altered to accommodate the college project.

General Audience: On Augustine-Faith and Reason

Pope Benedict XVI holds a baby at the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican January 30, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Helgren (VATICAN)

~translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear friends,

After the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we return today to reflect on the great figure of St. Augustine.

In 1986, my dear Predecessor John Paul II dedicated to Augustine, on the 1600th anniversary of his conversion, a long and dense document in the form of the Apostolic Letter Augustinum Hipponensen(Augustine of Hippo).

The Pope himself defined the text as "an act of thanksgiving to God for his gift to the Church, and through it, to all of mankind, with that miraculous conversion" (AAS, 74, 1992, p. 802).

I wish to return to the topic of Augustine's conversion in a future audience. It was a fundamental theme not only for Augustine's life, but also for ours. In last Sunday's Gospel, the Lord himself summarized his preaching in the words, "Convert yourselves".

Following the path of St. Augustine, we can meditate on what this conversion means: it is something definitive, decisive, but the fundamental decision must be developed and must be realized throughout our whole life.

The catechesis today will be dedicated instead to the theme of faith and reason, which was a determinative theme, or better still, the detrminative theme in the biography of St. Augustine.

As a child, he learned the Catholic faith from his mother Monica. But as an adolescent, he abandoned this faith because he could no longer see its reasonableness, and he did not want a religion that could not be, for him, also an expression of reason, and therefore, of truth. His thirst for truth was radical and led him to distance himself from the Catholic faith.

But his radicality was such that he could not content himself with philosophies which did not arrive at truth itself, which did not arrive at God. To a God who was not just the ultimate cosmological hypothesis, but the true God, the God who gives life and who enters our own life.

Thus all of St. Augustine's intellectual and spiritual itinerary constitutes a model valid even today for the relationship between faith and reason, a theme not only for believers but for every man who searches for the truth, a central theme for the equilibrium and destiny of every human being.

These two dimensions, faith and reason, are not to be separated nor to be opposed to each other, but should always go together. As Augustine himself wrote after his conversion, faith and reason are "the two forces that bring us to knowing" (Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43).

In this respect, two Augustinian formulations (from Sermons, 43,9) remain rightly celebrated for expressing this coherent synthesis between faith and reason: Crede ut intelligas (I believe in order to understand) - belief opens the way to get to the threshold of truth - and, inseparably, Intellige ut credas (I understand in order to believe): to scrutinize truth in order to find God and believe.

Those two statements by Augustine express with effective immediacy and with profundity the synthesis of this issue, in which the Catholic Church sees the expression of its way.

Historically, this synthesis had been taking shape, even before the coming of Christ, in the encounter between the Jewish faith and Greek thought that resulted in Hellenistic Judaism. Successively, this synthesis was recovered and developed throughout history by many Christian thinkers.

The harmony between faith and reason means, above all, that God is not far: he is not far from our reason and our life; he is close to every human being, close to our heart and close to our reason, if we really put ourselves on the right way.

It was precisely this closeness of God to man that Augustine experienced with extraordinary intensity. The presence of God in man is profound and at the same time, mysterious, but we can discover and recognize it in our most intimate being.

Do not go out, the convert says: "but go back into yourself - truth resides in the interior man, and if you find that your nature is changeable, transcend yourself. But remember, when you transcend yourself, that you transcend a soul which reasons. Then reach beyond - to where the light of reason is lit" (De vera religione, 39, 72).

As Augustine himself underscored with that most famous statement at the start of Confessions, his spiritual autobiography written in praise of God: "You made us for you, and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (I,1,1).

Distance from God is equivalent therefore to distance from our selves: "Indeed, you," Augustine writes (Confessions, III, 6,11), addressing himself to God, “are more intimately present to me than my inmost being and higher than the highest element in me” - interior intimo meo et superior summo meo - such that, he adds in another passage, recalling the time before his conversion, "you were in front of me, but I, instead, had gone far from myself and could not find myself again, and even less could I find you again" (Confessions, V, 2, 2).

Precisely because Augustine had lived firsthand this intellectual and spiritual itinerary, he knew how to render it with such immediacy, profundity and wisdom in his works, recognizing in two other famous passages from Confessions (IV, 4, 9 e 14, 22) that man is 'a great enigma' (magna quaestio) and 'a great abyss' (grande profundum) - enigma and abyss that only Christ illuminates and saves.

This is important: a man who is far from God is also far from himself, alienated from himself, and can recover himself only if he meets God, and thus, he will also arrive at himself, his true I, his true identity.

The human being, Augustine then underscores in De civitate Dei (The City of God, XII, 27) – is social by nature but anti-social by fault, and is saved by Christ, the only mediator between God and mankind and the "universal way of freedom and salvation", as my predecessor John Paul II repeated (Augustinum Hipponensem, 21): Outside this way, which has never failed humanity, Augustine says in the same work, "no one was ever liberated, no one can be liberated, no one will be liberated" (De civitate Dei, X, 32, 2).

As the only mediator of salvation, Christ is the head of the Church and is mystically united to it, to the point that Augustine could say: "We have become Christ. Indeed, if he is the head, and we are the members (limbs), the total man is he and us" (In Iohannis evangelium tractatus, 21, 8).

People of God and house of God, the Church in the Augustinian vision is thus closely linked to the concept of the Body of Christ, based on the Christologic re-reading of the Old Testament, and on sacramental life centered in the Eucharist, in which the Lord gives us his Body and transforms us into his Body.

It is therefore fundamental that the Church - the People of God in the Christologic and not the sociological sense - should be truly in Christ, who, Augustine says in a very beautiful test, "prays for us, prays in us, is prayed to by us: he prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is prayed to by us as our God - so we recognize in him our voice, and in ours, his" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 85, 1).

At the conclusion of the apostolic letter Augustinum Hipponensem, John Paul II asked whatthe saint has to say to men today, and responded with the words that Augustine dictated in a letter shortly after his conversion: "It seems to me that man should be led back to the hope of finding the truth" (Epistulae, 1, 1): that truth which is Christ himself, true God, to whom one of the most beautiful and famous prayers in Confessions (X, 27,38) is addressed:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness
I plunged into the lovely things which you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you
they would have not been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
So it was! Augustine had encountered God and all his life experienced him to the point that this reality - which was above all an encounter with a Person, Jesus - changed his life, as he has changed that of so many men and women in every age who have had the grace to encounter him.

Let us pray that the Lord may give us this grace and to make us find his peace by doing so.

Lenten choices

~from Petrus via Papa Ratzinger Forum

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen French Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, the Biblicist whom he made a cardinal in the first consistory of his Pontificate, to preach the spiritual exercises for the Pope and the Roman Curia during the traditional retreat at the start of the Lenten season, according to the French online agency, I-Media.

Vanhoye, 84, is a Jesuit scholar who is a specialist in the New Testament.

Previous preachers chosen by Benedict XVI in the first two retreats of his Pontificate were also retired prelates - Cardinal Marco Ce, emeritus Patriarch of Venice, in 2006, and Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, emeritus Archbishop of Florence, last year.

[Equally noteworthy was the Pope's choice of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hongkong to write the meditations and prayers for the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday.]

Spiritual consumerism

~from First Things by Anthony Sacramone. It's an interesting phenomenon that has been going on for years...spiritual consumerism so typified by the strip-mall churches. There is one in my town that has been there for 15 years. Then there are all the little non-denominational churches next to, say, computer stores, or vacuum repair shops whose plate-glass windows have cafe-style curtains. It's puzzling to read their names and try to discern what exactly their beliefs are. Try these on for size: "Tabernacle Deliverance Church" or "God's Holiness Temple through Jesus Christ".
Read Richard Mouw’s “Spiritual Consumerism’s Upside,” recently made available online at Christianity Today’s website. In it Mouw defends the idea of church shopping (or hopping or skipping or jumping) as not only inevitable given our diverse religious culture but even exciting and positive. It’s more than a concession to how things are, how Christianity—particularly its Protestant and evangelical forms—has played itself out in America. It’s a celebration of it. People don’t “inherit” denominational allegiances to the degree they once did, the argument goes. Most communities offer churches of various denominational “brands” within short distances from each other. The “seeker” church is an increasingly popular phenomenon and attracts both unbelievers and those raised in the faith but who are currently not tied to any one church (if they attend church at all). Why not embrace the opportunities the fissiparous nature of Protestantism offers?

Mouw insists that we not make judgments about people pursuing their spiritual bliss, unencumbered by theological presuppositions. In fact, he pleads guilty to a certain denominational shape-shifting himself. He also takes umbrage at the tendency to apply the “church shopper” label to those who drift from one evangelical denomination to another but not to those who leave a Protestant denomination to become Catholic. Mouw also riffs on the various religious orders within Catholicism, which, to his mind, is a variation on the denominational distinctions within Protestantism.

With all due respect to Dr. Mouw, his thesis is just daft. To begin with, the sundry Catholic orders all read the same catechism, eat the same Supper, and answer to the same Magisterium. Whatever the differences in emphases (mendicant vs. teaching orders, for example), there is concrete church governance that can issue in specific church discipline. That is very different from the serious discrepancies in theology and church order that separate Protestant denominations.

Ask two pastors who fence their Communion tables to discuss the Real Presence and what actually happens at baptism. Then attend an emerging-church service and ask if there’s a table to be fenced at all and whether a baby can be baptized or only dedicated. Mouw is now a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and occasionally sits in on an Episcopal service. Do these denominations have anything like a consensus on such fundamentals as the deity of Christ or his bodily resurrection? a Baptist, a member of the PCA, and someone aligned with an Anglican congregation under alternative episcopal oversight and bring up the subject of church government. Want to get into free will, double predestination, and open theism? How about women’s ordination? The charismatic gifts?

Now, if the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition have nothing coherent to say about these things, then I guess it doesn’t matter which church you attend on a given Sunday. For that matter, it doesn’t really matter whether you attend a “church” at all. Can’t you just as well “assemble together” (Hebrews 10:25) in a home Bible study that includes prayer and a hymn or two?

Mouw’s celebration of “cultural diversity” isn’t even doctrinal minimalism—it’s doctrinal irrelevance. In short, if every church can be the church, then no church is. What he is looking for is a church in which walls are no barrier: But if Jesus’ example is any guide, only resurrected bodies can pass through walls. Until the eschaton, we are stuck with certain boundaries.

So how do people choose a church if they have no previous allegiance? Beliefnet ran a story a few years back culled from Religion News Service, about how seekers went about choosing a new church. Biblical preaching and personal evangelism were important—but so were friendliness, clean bathrooms, working nurseries, and something called “high expectations.” (What would that entail exactly? Asking a newcomer to clean some of those bathrooms while reading aloud passages from A Purpose-Drive Life?)

Denominational loyalty was nonexistent: “Seekers” couldn’t have cared less what label was slapped on the church door—yet they wanted “clear preaching,” not something “watered down.” But if every denomination is as good as another, then presumably so is the theological tradition in which each is rooted. So what is it you want the preacher to be clear about exactly? The gospel? If you have no theological grounding, how do you know the message that’s coming through loud and clear is the gospel—is authentically biblical and orthodox—and not merely ancient heresy communicated effectively? Hitler’s Munich speech of 1923 is certainly clear, and no one would describe it as watered-down pap. And certainly there were many who thought it was true. Just because a sermon isn’t sentimental or obtuse doesn’t make it the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I find the same subtle argument creeping in with youth programs....we need to be seeker-sensitive....though not specifically with those words, it is the same spirit that rears its head. Come to think of it, I have found the same mentality toward the way RCIA is sometimes structured. "Don't be too hard on people or you'll drive them away." I had a gentleman once look me in the eye and ask, "So why should I become Catholic?" I said to him, "To come into the fullness of the Faith and to receive Christ's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity." He smiled at me and said, "Well done."

Where sin abounded grace has overflowed

~by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Saviour? Indeed, the more secure is my place there, the more he can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock.

I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: he was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.

Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.

He was thinking thoughts of peace, and I did not know it, for who knows the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor? But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses.

Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.

My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord’s mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord’s mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Mystery of Human Beings

~Yesterday, the Holy Father addressed academics in a joint meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Academie des Sciences de Paris. The only text available yesterday was in French which I slogged through. Here CNA reports:
In our time, the Pope told the scholars, "the exact sciences, both natural and human, have made prodigious advances in their understanding of man and his universe". However at the same time "there is a strong temptation to circumscribe human identity and enclose it with the limits of what is known.”

“In order to avoid going down this path,” the Pontiff said, “it is important not to ignore anthropological, philosophical and theological research, which highlight and maintain the mystery of human beings, because no science can say who they are, where they come from and where they go. The knowledge of human beings is then, the most important of all forms of knowledge".

"Human beings always stand beyond what can be scientifically seen or perceived", the Pope affirmed. This failure manifests itself today in “an incapacity to recognize the foundation upon which human dignity rests, from the embryo until natural death," said the Pope.

"Starting from the question of the new being, who is produced by a fusion of cells and who bears a new and specific genetic heritage", the Holy Father told his audience, "you have highlighted certain essential elements in the mystery of man". Man, said the Pope is "characterized by his otherness. He is a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and is made to love. As a human he is never closed within himself. He is always a bearer of otherness and, from his origins, is in interaction with other human beings".

Contrary to the Darwinian concept of man, Pope Benedict said that “man is not the result of mere chance, of converging circumstances, of determinism, of chemical inter-reactions.”

Man is a being who enjoys a freedom which ... transcends his nature and is a sign of the mystery of otherness that dwells within him. ... This freedom, which is characteristic of human beings, means they can guide their lives to a goal" and "highlights how man's existence has a meaning. In the exercise of his authentic freedom, the individual realizes his vocation, he is fulfilled and gives form to his deepest identity".
Here's another citation from Westchester Institute on a series of reflections on Pope Benedict's Christianity and the Crisis of Culture
What happens to our culture when the vast majority of people become accustomed to thinking about the human as a product, as one more potential artifact to be produced by human ingenuity? In Benedict's opinion, what happens is that we descend from understanding ourselves as being created in the image of God, to understanding ourselves as being made in our own image . The Holy Father continues:
All this demonstrates that the growth of our possibilities is not matched by an equal development of our moral energy. Moral strength has not grown in tandem with the development of science; on the contrary, it has diminished, because the technological mentality confines morality to the subjective sphere. Our need, however, is for a public morality, a morality capable of responding to the threats that impose such a burden on the existence of us all. The true gravest danger of the present moment is precisely this imbalance between technological possibilities and moral energy (p. 27, emphasis my own).
It is no secret that persons who espouse what Benedict calls a "technological mentality" will almost by default relegate moral discourse and the whole broad enterprise of ethical consideration to the realm of the utterly subjective. Recourse to that realm-so the idea goes-may have its usefulness (things like religious sentiment and moral consideration can give us a helpful psychological boost from time to time), but it is otherwise utterly unempirical, essentially irrational, and entirely skewed by one's tastes and preferences. It is certainly not the stuff of science, and morality-like religion-is best kept out of the public square. Such an attitude, the Pope says, is perilous. Why? Because scientific advancement and the progress of human knowledge untethered from sustained and rigorous moral reflection will eventually implode on itself and society. A culture's "moral energy" - the stamina to ask hard, probing questions, to insist on the reasonable limits of scientific endeavor, to uphold the inviolable dignity of human life from conception to natural end-must keep apace with the advancement of scientific endeavor. And it must do so, not to squash that progress, not to impede science or "stand in the way of cures", but precisely to assure that science successfully achieves its genuine goals-without destroying humanity in the process.

Such an attitude is not "medieval"; it is, rather, based on a cursory glance at history, and a probing understanding of the human person and human weakness-precisely the kind of considerations from which the contemporary scientific mindset must never abstract itself. Researchers are human beings capable of moral failure or moral greatness. Whenever we touch the human in the laboratory, there are necessarily far-reaching questions that must be answered on the moral plain. Scientists, researchers, those engaged in healthcare-all would do well to strive to be sound moralists as well. But as Benedict notes, the disconnect today between the two realms of science and morality is considerable-dangerously so.

New Facebook Additions

~Oh, joy! New "Hug Me" icons to "X" my friends. I'm sure friends like QM will simply adore such lush cuteness. And then there's BMP, and Zadok! Watch out, guys, saccharine sentimentality coming your way. Have some insulin handy, 'mkay?

Journalism Gems

~via Orthometer, Top Ten Headlines of 2007, a sampler:
--Miners Refuse to Work after Death. (No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-sos!)

--Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant. (See if that works any better than a fair trial!)

--War Dims Hope for Peace. (I can see where it might have that effect!)

--If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile. (Ya think?!)

--Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures. (Who would have thought!)

--Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide. (They may be on to something!)

--Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges. (You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?!)

--Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge. (He probably IS the battery charge.)

--New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group. (Weren't they fat enough?!)

The Altar Threshold

~Sometimes, it's easy to despair when one sees so many wacky ways that liturgy is celebrated. Here is an excerpt from Romano Guardini's Meditations Before Mass which should be mandatory reading.
We have just distinguished between God's special presence in His own house and His all-sustaining omnipresence in the world He created. We also replied to the current objection that man can experience God equally well everywhere. Of course, this is possible, as it is also possible to experience everywhere the illusion of false Christianity more readily than genuine contact with the Creator of the world. Moreover, there is always the disquieting suspicion that those who insist on their encounters with God in woods and cowers do not have in mind the God of revelation, but a vague, pantheistic "Mother Nature" or mysterious "Life Force," or whatever else these questionable varieties of "religious experience" are called. The real God has no resemblance with the "God" such experiences presuppose. He speaks in the plain, exact words of His messengers through the person, life and death of Jesus Christ. He challenges the world, arousing it from its captivity, demanding that it recognize the truth and be converted. The otherness of that conversion is stressed by the fact that the celebration of God's mystery does not take place just anywhere: neither in the spaciousness of nature, nor in the intimacy of a home, but in the unique, clearly circumscribed area of the church. Thus we find the constantly repeated procedure: The believer goes to the house of God, crosses the threshold and enters the sacred room within. This is an important part of genuine piety. He remains "present," listens, speaks, acts, serves. Then he leaves, returns to the world of men or to the private realm of his home, taking with him what he has experienced as instruction, guidance, and strength.

There is also a special order established within the sacred interior. It is essential to the liturgy that the important acts of which it is composed are not left to chance or to the momentary spiritual situation, but are arranged and specified with the greatest care. The Lord's memorial sacrifice cannot take place anywhere in the church, but only at one particular spot, the altar.

The altar is a great mystery. Its religious archetype is to be found in almost all faiths; indeed, I doubt that it is fundamentally absent from any. It appears in the Old Testament. Precise laws determine how it is to be fashioned, cared for, served. In the New Testament it is not actually discussed; but we do encounter it, for example, in the visions of the Apocalypse. When the books of the New Testament were being written, the altar was the table at which the congregation celebrated the sacred Supper. Very soon, however, it began to take on its own characteristics, and in the catacombs we find it in its earliest form. What then is the altar? Its meaning is probably most clearly suggested by two images: it is threshold and it is table.

Threshold is door, and it has a double significance: border and crossing over. It indicates where one thing ends and another begins. The border which marks the end of the old makes possible entry into the new. As a threshold, the altar creates first of all the border between the realm of the world and the realm of God. The altar reminds us of the remoteness in which He lives "beyond the altar," as we might say, meaning divine distance; or "above the altar," meaning divine loftiness both to be understood of course not spatially, but spiritually. They mean that God is the Intangible One, far removed from all approaching, from all grasping; that He is the all-powerful, Majestic One immeasurably exalted above earthly things and earthly striving. Such breadth and height are founded not on measure, but on God's essence: His holiness, to which man of himself has no access.

On the other hand, this is not to be understood merely spiritually, or rather, merely intellectually. In the liturgy everything is symbolical. But symbol is more than a corporal form representing something incorporeal. Let us take, for example, a representation of Justice: a woman, blindfolded, and holding scales in her hands. Such justice is not apparent. First one must be instructed that the bandaged eyes mean that a judge is no respecter of persons; the scales, that to each is to be measured out is exact due. This is allegory whose meaning is not directly perceived.

The liturgy also contains allegories; but its basic forms are symbols. Their meaning is actually hidden, yet it reveals itself in a particular thing or person, much as the human soul, itself invisible, becomes perceptible, approachable in the expression and movements of a face. So is it in the Church. The altar is not an allegory, but a symbol. The thoughtful believer does not have to be taught that it is a border, that "above it" stretch inaccessible heights and "beyond it" the reaches of divine remoteness; somehow he is aware of this.

To grasp the mystery all that is necessary on the part of the believer is intrinsic readiness and calm reflection; then his heart will respond with reverence. In a very vital hour he may even have an experience somewhat similar to that of Moses when he guarded his flocks in the loneliness of Mount Horeb. Suddenly "The Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire and was not burnt. And Moses said: I will go and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he went forward to see, he called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: Moses, Moses. And he answered: Here I am. And he said: Come not nigh hither. Put off the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus 3: 2-5).

It is essential for every one of us to experience at some time or another the fear of the Lord, to be repelled by Him from the sacred place, that we may know with all our being that God is God and we are but man. Trust in God, nearness to Him and security in Him remain thin and feeble when personal knowledge of God's exclusive majesty and awful sanctity do not counterbalance them. We do well to pray God for this experience, and the place where it is most likely to be granted us is before His altar.

Threshold is not, however, only borderline; it is also crossing over. One can step over it into the adjacent room, or, standing on it, receive him who comes from the other side. It is something that unites, a place of contact and encounter. This too is contained in the symbol of the altar. The essence of revelation is the news that God loves us. God's love is not simply the love which we find also in ourselves, infinitely intensified. Inconceivable mystery, it had to be revealed: an unheard-of act that we can begin to fathom only when it is clear to us who God is and who we are. Its real expression is to be found in the tremendous event of the Incarnation, when God abandoned His sacred reserve, came to us, became one of us, sharing with us human life and human destiny. Now He is with us, "on our side." Such is His love, and it creates a nearness that man alone never could have conceived. All this is expressed by the altar. It reminds us that God turns to us; from His heights He steps down to us; out of His remoteness He approaches us. The altar is the sign of God's presence among us, in us. And the same altar suggests further that there is a way leading us, remote, isolated creatures that we are, back to our Creator; from the depths of our sin "up" to His holiness; that we can follow it to be sure, not on our own strength, but on that which His grace supplies. We can cross the border only because God crossed it to come to us. His descent draws us upwards. He Himself, the One-Who-Has-Come, is "the way, and the truth, and the life."

Knowledge of the possibility of passing above and beyond is a primordial Christian experience which most intimately affects man's relations to God (a passing that is not simple continuation along a known route, but a traversing of certain limits). The realms that it separates are different; between them stands a door which can open but also close. We are enabled to make the passage by hope, which declares it possible (but only when we heed an innate reticence, which cautions that it is never self-understood). The instant hope becomes importunity or trust presumption, the instant the sacred security of grace lapses into habit, the door closes and most firmly when its existence has been entirely forgotten and the believer innocently assumes that all is as it should be. At this point too we do well to ask that we may realize vividly that we are "children" of "the Father's house," yet must stand "in fear and trembling."

"Threshold" really lies everywhere in the simple fact that God is Creator, man creature; this fact is heightened by man's sinfulness, which makes him unable to stand before the Holy God. Yet God has stooped to us in an act of saving love and laid out for us the road to Himself. Thus everywhere we are confronted by sacred barriers repelling us, but also by the possibility of their opening for us. What we call prayer is the mysterious process of that opening.

Every time we invoke God, we approach His threshold and pass over it. In the altar the barrier presents itself in a form symbolizing God's revelation, for there in the mystery of the Mass it comes to its own in a very special way. Through Christ's self-sacrifice in salutary death, a sacrifice which presupposed the Incarnation of God's Son, the altar-threshold appears most clearly as the borderline which shows who Holy God is and what our sin. But the altar-threshold is also the crossing-over par excellence, because God became man so that we might become "partakers of the divine nature." The altar is indeed the "holy place" before which we can say as we can nowhere else: "I am here, O Lord."

Wellness Cloister

.....aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!! Wacky Dominicans alert!!!

Wellness Cloister

I must admit, it takes a strong constitution to visit Chris' Catholic Church Conservation.

Circus Mass

~please put down all beverages and swallow before you click on this link. Chris has done it again.

Oh, what a circus, Oh what a show!

The Elevation is way, way too much.

Messaage of Pope Benedict for Lent 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church. In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).

2. According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value, according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3,17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity...

...4. In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35). When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy. Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more: Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins: “Charity,” he writes, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4,8). As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift. In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.

Read more

The hearts and minds of all believers were one

~by St. Hilary of Poitiers

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 28, 2008

Summa Contra Haugen Haas

~The title comes from The Divine Lamp's post which brought gales of laughter here. Please visit his site to read and to listen to Pange lingua gloriosi sound files that he linked. Then if you have time after dinner before bed, you might want to peruse St. Thomas' Summa contra gentes. This version is in Latin. A friend who teaches a survey of literature class was approached by one of his freshman students on where to begin reading Aquinas. Here's a good place, On Happiness from Summa Theologica, First part of the second part

Here's Jacques Maritain's St. Thomas Aquinas. And here's Pope Pius XI's encyclical Studiorum Ducem (On St. Thomas Aquinas).

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the church

by Tom Kreitzberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cross exemplifies every virtue

~by St. Thomas Aquinas

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.
It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honours, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mozart Madness

Happy Birthday to Wolfie! Here are some of my favorite choral works to celebrate.

Credo from Coronation Mass, K.317

Kyrie K.323

And there's nothing like these from Requiem K.626:

Dies Irae
Rex Tremendae Majestatis
Domine Jesu Christe

Traditional Mass in the Philippines

~from Asia News

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Catholics of Iloilo City have participated in a Mass in Latin. More than 700 faithful attended the celebration in the parish of Mandurriao this week. It was the first "Tridentine Mass" celebrated on the island since Vatican Council II decided to introduce the Mass in local languages.

Maria Legarda, 56 years old and a member of the parish's pastoral council for responsible voting - recalls that the last time she took part in a Mass in Latin was after the second world war. "We understand Latin because we learned and got used to it", she says. "Celebrating it in the traditional way is inspiring for us".

The celebrants were Msgr Juanito Ma. Tuvilla, Fr Oscar Andrada, Fr Winifredo Losaria, and Fr Renato Cuadras. The priests used Latin for everything but the homily, for which Msgr Tuvilla used the local Hiligaynon dialect. He explained that celebrating in Latin does not exclude the use of the vernacular: "Whatever language is used, the elements of the rites of the Catholic Church started 2,000 years ago are still there".

Fr Celis clarifies that the decision to celebrate the Mass in Latin is a response to the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" from last July, "on the use of the Roman liturgy preceding the reform of 1970". The norm, established by Benedict XVI, conferred full citizenship on the so-called "Tridentine" Mass, with the priest facing away from the faithful and the other "ancient" practices that were replaced, but not abrogated, by the missal of Paul VI, who accepted the recommendations on the liturgy from Vatican Council II.

Papal photo of the day

Pope Benedict XVI looks at a white dove released by children from the window of his private apartment at the end of the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican January 27, 2008. The Pope delivered a message of peace on Sunday, flanked by two children who released two doves.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN)

Christ is present to his Church

~from Sacrosanctum Concilium

Christ is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone baptises, Christ himself baptises. He is present in his word, for it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.

Indeed, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men, Christ is always joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church, which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.

It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which through signs addressed to the senses man’s sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its fullness by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the head and by his members.

Accordingly, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a pre-eminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.

In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, as minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Lord; as we reverence the memory of the saints, we hope to have some part with them, and to share in their fellowship; we wait for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, who is our life, appears, and we appear with him in glory.

By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is rightly called the Lord’s day. On Sunday the Christian faithful ought to gather together, so that by listening to the word of God and sharing in the Eucharist they may recall the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God who has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord’s day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon it, so that it may be also a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and the kernel of the whole liturgical year.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Pope Benedict's thesis to obtain his "Habilitation". To be re-issued in Italian. Here's the preface by theologian Elio Guerriero from Avvenire, 25 Jan, 2008 (via Papa Ratzinger Forum)
Back in the bookstores after decades is San Bonaventura. La teologia della storia (Edizioni Porziuncola, 256 pp, euro 28.00), one of the fundamental works of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedetto XVI.

The young scholar came to study the Franciscan doctor of the Church at the suggestion of his adviser Gottlieb Soehngen, with the aim of making a clarificatory contribution to the lively debate on theology in Bonaventure's time.

In the encounter between the 'reformed' thought of the first half of the 20th century and the scholastic thought that was prevalent in Catholic circles, there emerged what seemed to be an insurmountable difficulty.

Where the reformers, particularly Karl Barth, underlined the character of revelation as an event which places the believer every time in a position of deciding to adhere, Catholic tradition had become identified with metaphysical thought, which was static and well-defined, and seemed not to require going repeatedly through an act of faith that was increasingly becoming personal.

The solution towards which some scholars, including Catholic theologians, tended was to abandon metaphysics, a dehellenization that seemed antithetical to the original Semitic character of the faith.

In the preface to the Italian edition, Ratzinger - by then a cardinal - continued to underline the actuality of the issue. At the time, he still had notes for a new preface that I expected to find in this re-issue. But obviously, that was not possible.

Ratzinger's starting point was the work Hexameron, on the six days of the creation of the world, one of Bonaventure's last works, in which the saint, one year before his death, confronted the conflicting spiritual currents within the order, indirectly through Joachim of Fiore.

Enthusiastic over the teachings of the Cistercian monk which allowed the Franciscans to see in their founder Francis of Assisi as the one who started a new age of love as against an age of law, the more radical Franciscans - which included even Bonaventure's predecessor as Franciscan superior-general - risked bringing the order out of the Church.

Bonaventure, who had been elected superior precisely to face such a delicate problem, immersed himself in the spirit of Francis during the first few years of his mandate. He wrote a new biography of
Francis and meditated on the significance of his life. Comparing Francis to Joachim - whose theological vision of history he appreciated - he introduced a distinction which would eliminate any equivocation: the monk from Calabria, like Francis, did not start eschatological time, but announced it.

Compared to the simple folk in which Jesus rejoiced, Francis had received the gift of a superior spiritual intelligence from Scriptures. Together with revelatio, however, Francis also received the gift of humilitas which allowed him to establish an essential link between these two gifts of the Spirit.

For Bonaventure, this meant that the Magisterium should not be considered a weight by the individual, but as a guarantee that assures communion with the people of God in the Church. Those who do receive revelations - Bonaventure used the plural - have intimate familiarity with the mystery of God and are in communion with the hierarchical Church as well as the people of God.

Ratzinger's conclusion responded fully to the hypothesis of his research: even in the Catholic Church, the concept of revelation carried in itself a character of personal adhesion and urgency.

This was a fundamental insight that Ratzinger, along with Henri de Lubac, were advocating at the time of framing the Conciliar Constitution on Divine Revelation [Verbum Dei], which has remained present in his theology and writings.

Another detail gained from his encounter with Bonaventure - which became, since then, a distinctive feature of the thought and work of the man who is now the Pope - was the centrality and familiarity with Christ, to which his book JESUS OF NAZARETH, invites the faithful.

Purifying Purgatory

~It is such a joy to have the Pontificator back writing again. Here is his latest, Purifying Purgatory
Suffering is both the instrument and consequence of our sanctification. Just as the addict must experience, and indeed embrace, terrible pain in the process of withdrawing himself from his drugs, so the sinner suffers pain and distress as he detaches himself from bondage to worldly goods. When viewed from the perspective of God and his justice, how else can this suffering be understood except as “punishment.” But the punishment is not primarily or exclusively retributive: its purpose is the sanctification and perfection of the sinner. The punitive dimension must be interpreted through the medicinal purpose of purgatorial suffering. “Punishment” in this context should therefore be recognized as a form of analogical speech. The torment individuals suffer in Purgatory varies, Bonaventure explains, “according as they took with them from their earthly life more or less of what must be burned away. … The more deeply a man has loved the things of the world in the inner core of his heart, the harder it will be for him to be cleansed.” With Augustine and Caesarius of Arles, Bonaventure affirms that the sufferings of Purgatory exceed the sufferings of our present life, but “because those who are being cleansed possess grace which now they cannot lose, they neither can nor will be completely immersed in sorrow, or fall into despair, or be moved to blaspheme.” Two hundred years later St Catherine of Genoa would remind the Church that though the sufferings of the poor souls may be great, their joy and happiness is greater still: “No happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to His entrance is consumed.”

Following long-standing Western opinion, Bonaventure believes that God has ordained a physical fire as the instrument of purification. “The fire of purgatory is a real fire,” he states, “which, however, affects the spirit of the just who, in their lifetime, did not sufficiently atone and make reparation for their sins.” The question of the nature of the purgatorial fire was raised at the Council of Florence, the Greeks insisting upon a symbolic understanding. The council wisely avoided settling this question.

The sufferings of Purgatory are punitive precisely as medicinal, sanctifying, and transformative. They effectively cleanse the soul and render it fit for glory. Punishment ends at the moment the soul is prepared for perfect union with the God who is love...

Inside Vatican Top Ten People of 2007

~from Inside the Vatican's profiles of their top ten people of 2007. Number Seven is Fr. Ragheed Ganni, the Chaldean priest shot and killed last June in Mosul. This profile was written by friends of Fr. Ragheed.
On June 3, 2007, a Chaldean priest and three deacons were shot and killed in front of Holy Spirit Church in Mosul, Iraq. The murdered priest was Ragheed Ganni, a 34-year-old who had studied in Rome from 1996-2003 at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the "Angelicum," and who had resided at the Pontifical Irish College.

Though he was but one among the many innocents who are killed in Iraq each day, Fr. Ragheed’s brutal murder was nevertheless a shocking and cathartic event that sent reverberations around the world.

The death was noted by the Pope and the Irish president, and in hundreds of newspaper columns, magazine articles, and websites; protest demonstrations were held in the U.S., Sweden, Germany, France, and Rome.

Well-traveled, highly-educated and known for his holiness and charisma, Fr. Ragheed was a "costly sacrifice" for the Chaldean Church, in the words of Benedict XVI.

In a way, Fr. Ragheed was a typical representative of all the Iraqi Christians who have become persecuted victims of the violence that has been unleashed in their country, but in another way he was quite exceptional.

Fr. Ragheed gave a rare and inspiring witness to the faith through his death, a death he well knew could be his and a death he accepted.

Born in the predominantly Christian city of Mosul in northern Iraq, Ragheed Ganni obtained a degree in engineering in 1993 and then entered the seminary. Sent to Rome by his bishop, he received a licentiate degree in Ecumenical Theology from the Angelicum and was ordained a priest in Rome in 2001.

He often spent his summers in Ireland, working at the shrine of Lough Derg in Donegal. The year he was finishing his degree in Rome the Iraq war began. In a prewar interview with this magazine, Fr. Ragheed expressed his opposition to the invasion, one of the reasons being that Iraqi Christians would be targeted and persecuted by Islamic fanatics. Yet despite this prophecy, Fr. Ragheed never doubted that he would return to serve the country and people he loved.

The gravity of his decision was almost immediately felt: in 2004 Fr. Ganni was accosted by armed Islamic militants who took him from the residence of the archbishop of Mosul and made him watch as they set off bombs they had placed within the building.

Later, Fr. Ganni received several death threats, and his Holy Spirit Church was the scene of several attacks. Less than a month before he was killed, the church had suffered damage from bombing.

After Fr. Ragheed’s death, Fr. Philip Najim, the procurator of the Chaldean Church to the Holy See, declared the slain priest a martyr of the Chaldean Church, which is suffering and has shed its blood in what Benedict XVI calls the Church of the Living Martyrs. His martyrdom, Najim added, "should be a dawn for the life and peace of Iraq, giving room to Christian hope. We need the Holy See to encourage the Church in Iraq and all Christians to unity."

Benedict XVI was deeply saddened by the senseless killing of Fr. Ganni and his friends.

In a telegram that Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone sent to Fr. Ragheed’s bishop in the Pope’s name, Benedict said that "Ragheed’s sacrifice will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence, to conquer evil with good and to cooperate in hastening the dawn of reconciliation, justice and peace in Iraq."

The Irish president, Mary McAleese, wrote, in a letter read at the Requiem Mass for Fr. Ragheed at the Irish College, that "Fr. Ragheed Ganni’s death challenges us to work for reconciliation between faiths and to create a world in which each human life is revered... Fr. Ragheed lived his life by a commandment to love. In our sorrow we remember his willing sacrifice in service of his faith."

Fr. Robert Christian, one of Fr. Ragheed’s professors at the Angelicum, the university he would have returned to for his doctoral studies had he survived, gave this moving tribute to his friend and student during a Requiem Mass held at the university: "We are used to teaching future leaders of the Church. When we hear about one of our former students becoming a bishop we rejoice. But having taught a martyr is something else entirely... There is the awareness that we are before a person who was prepared to pay the supreme price; a person ready to shed his blood for the life of the faithful."

The source of Fr. Ragheed’s uncommon fortitude was the Eucharist.

He himself said during the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, Italy, in May 2005: "The terrorists want to take our lives, but the Eucharist gives it back to us. Terrorists try to kill our bodies, but because of the violence of the fundamentalists we have discovered that the Eucharist gives us life, and this is the source of our hope."
For other profiles, click here.

Pope Benedict--a mystagogue

~by Gianni Baget Bozzo in Tempi via Papa Ratzinger Forum. I found this commentary on Pope Benedict to be fascinating.
The protest against the Pope at La Sapienza University led to the 'Rome demonstration' - a demonstration for freedom of opinion, even if in this case, on behalf of a particular person, the Pope.

Benedict XVI would have wanted to speak at La Sapienza as a professor - as he had done in Regensburg in September 2006 - thinking he had the immunity of a university professor to do so. But academe apparently no longer protects a Pope, who expresses the fullness of the Catholic Church before the world.

The text he never delivered at La Sapienza is a professor's discourse. He does not invoke any thesis that academic consensus could not accept.

He refers to John Rawls who defends the right of 'non-public' traditions to express themselves equitably in the civic space as minorities who do have reasonable arguments to present. And to Juergen Habermas who asks, as a premise for public debate, an acceptance of the equity among all parties to propose reasonable arguments.

In this, he was certainly not speaking as a Pope, who derives from Christ the right to speak to the world about the faith to which so many Christians have testified to the point of martyrdom and death.

In both cases - Regensburg and Rome - Joseph Ratzinger invoked freedom and academic consensus. But this was denied to him as Bishop of Rome. His role has drawn religious and political reactions, indicating the integral historicity of the Successor of Peter who, precisely by opposing him, his adversaries acknowledge that he speaks in the name of Christ and not just in his personal capacity.

This would seem to contradict the fact that his persona as a German university theologian confers a special fascination on his manner of presenting the papacy today as the Church experiences it.

But this is not the reason that he fascinates believers and non-believers alike today, in a manner quite different from that of the great communicator that John Paul II was.

Benedict XVI wants to get rid of the anxiety that has characterized the last Pontificates regarding the Church presence in the public discourse over social and political issues.

He may be called a mystagogue - one who intends to lead Christians into the mystery of the divine life that is inherent in each human being.

In fact, his concern has not been to show what defines the practice of the Church in social affairs, even if he knows that social work is a necessary expression of Christian charity as he himself indicated in his first encyclical.

His primary concern as Pope has been addressed to the Christian mystery of life eternal. Eternal life as participation in the Trinity, through Logos, the Word, in which, as the Johannine prologue says, "everything that was created takes life".

In the Word, the world existed in God before it was. It is a non-temporal but essential 'before' which expresses the immanence (presence) of creation in the divine Logos.

The Second Vatican Council called for 'signs of the times' as criteria to guide the Church. Those signs now indicate God as the dominant issue of this time, in which man has progressed to the point of imposing his 'form' on the world he is transforming without realizing the meaning of such action.

That is why the Pope speaks against the auto-sufficiency of the natural sciences and the technologies that derive from them, claiming to be the only way of progress for their archetype of man, whereas they really do not know where they are going and what they are really doing.

In short, the scientists of self-sufficiency have absolutely no awareness of the fall-out on reality from their autonomous proceedings.

The Pope is not opening up a conflict. All he is doing is to have Christians increase the contemplative dimension of Christian mystery, with respect to their actual existence which has become an all-absorbing sphere encompassing all human activity except human self-awareness and contemplation of God.

Precisely for this, because he is a mystagogue, Benedict XVI, who wants to lead Christians to participate in the Mystery of existence and salvation, must be seen to embody the difference between science and reality, man and technology.

The Pope expresses contemporary man, in the face of new powers that man possesses or dominates, and about which the Pope, by preaching the divine Mystery, is a witness to the humanity of man and his freedom.

Interesting curial assignments

~from the Holy See's Daily Bulletin
The Holy Father has nominated Cardinal Roger Mahony and Cardinal Edward Egan as members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.