Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Royal Martyrs Icon

I was searching for an icon writer for The Good Shepherd icon and ran across this iconographer. Her gallery had this icon of the Russian Royal Martyrs.

LOLcatz invade theoLOLgians

~hat tip to the Shrine. This post is to annoy my friend, Edmund the Papist in Dixieland who introduced me to the LOLcats.

Where will LOLcats lead you ask? How about I Can Has TheoLOLgians... Hey, why not since we've got: LOLcat Bible.

Now, we have the theoLOLgians.

Early, Medieval, Reformation

Being partial to the Early Church Fathers, we encountered these:

And look what they've done to our beloved Boethius:

Butler's Lives of the Saints Online

...available via Internet Archives. Click here. Hat tip to Way of the Fathers.

Liturgy saves us

~an excerpt from a meditation on this Feast Day of St. Pius V by Fr. Mark Kirby at Vultus Christi
The Collect for the feast of Saint Pius V recalls, in particular, his promotion of the sacred liturgy. The liturgy of the Church is what saves us again and again from narrowness, from the limitations of our subjective impressions, and from spiritual fossilization. The liturgy is what opens us day after day to vast horizons, connecting us vitally to every cell of the Mystical Body vivified by the Precious Blood.

Papa speaks about his apostolic voyage to the US

~from today's General Audience, translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters,

Although several days have elapsed since my return, I wish to dedicate today's catechesis, as is usual, to the apostolic voyage that I made to the United Nations Organization and the United States of America on April 15-21.

First of all, I renew my most heartfelt acknowledgment to the United States Catholic bishops conference and to President Bush for having invited me and for the warm welcome that I was accorded.

My 'thank you' extends to all those who, in Washington and New York, came to greet me and to show their love for the Pope, or who accompanied and sustained me with prayer and offering their sacrifices.

As you know, the occasion for the visit was the bicentennnial of the elevation to a metropolitan see of the country'[s first diocese, Baltimore, and the foundation of the dioceses of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville.

On such an ecclesial occasion, I had the joy of coming, for the first time as the Successor of Peter, to visit the beloved people of the United States of America, to confirm Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all Christians, and to announce to all the message of 'Christ our Hope', which was the theme of the visit.

In the meeting with the President at his residence, I paid tribute to that great nation which, from its beginnings, was founded on the basis of a happy conjunction between religious, eethical and political principles, and which still constitutes a valid example of healthy secularity, where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but valued as the 'spirit' of the nation and the fundamental guarantee of human rights and responsibilities.

In such context, the Church can develop with freedom and commitment its mission of evangelization and human promotion, and even of being a 'critical conscience', contributing to the construction of a society worthy of the human being, and at the same time, stimulating a nation like the United States - which everyone looks to as one of the principal actors on the international scene - towards global solidarity, which is ever more necessry and urgent, and towards the patient exercise of dialog in international relations.

Naturally, the mission and the role of the church community were at the center of my encounter with the bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. In the liturgical context of Vespers, we praised the Lord for the path taken by the People of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors, and the fervor and generosity of its faithful, manifested in their high and open regard for the faith, and in innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country and abroad.

At the same time, I sustained my brother bishops in their not-easy task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by not a few contradictions which threatens the coherence of Catholics and even the clergy themselves.

I encouraged them to make their voices heard on actual moral and social questions and to form faithful lay persons in such a way that they may be good 'yeast' for the civilian community, starting with the fundamental cell of society which is the family.

In this sense, I exhorted them to re-propose the sacrmament of Matrimony as a gift and an indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment for nurturing and educating children.

The Church and the family, together with schools - especially those of Christian inspiration - should cooperate to offer young people a solid moral education. But in this task, those who work in communications and entertainment also have a great responsibility.

Thinking of the sorrowful events of sexual abuses committes by ordained ministers against minors, I wished to express to the bishops my closeness, encouraging them in the committment to bind up the wounds and to strengthen their relationship with their priests.

Responding to some questions posed by the bishops, I was able to underline some important aspects: the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and 'natural law'; a sane concept of freedom with includes love and is realized in love; the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the exigency of announcing in a new way, especially to young people, 'salvation' as the fullness of living, and to educate them in prayer, from which generous responses to the call of the Lord may germinate.

In the great festive Eucharistic celebration at the Nationals Park Stadium of Washington, we invoked the Holy Spirit on the entire Church in the United States of America, so that, firmly rooted in the faith transmitted by their fathers, profoundly united and renewed, it may face present and future challenges with courage and hope - that hope which "does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).

One such challenge is certainly that of education, and therefore, at the Catholic University of America, I met the rectors of Catholic universities and colleges, the diocesan officials responsible for teaching, professors and student rerpresenatives.

The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the ecclesial community in the United States has always been very engaged in it, rendering at the same time a great social and cultural service to the entire nation. It is important that this goes on.

It is equally important to look after the quality of Catholic institutions, so that they may truly be able to form students according to 'the full stature' of Christ (cfr Eph 4,13), uniting faith and reason, freedom and truth. It was with joy that I confirmed the educators in this, their precious task of intellectual charity.

In a multicultural country like the United States of America, my meetings with the representatives of other religions were especially important: in Washington at the John Paul II Cultural Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains; in New York, the visit to a synagogue.

These were very heartfelt moments, especially the latter, which confirmed a common commitment to dialog and to the promotion of peace and spiritual and moral values.

In that nation which may be called the homeland of religious freedom, I wished to underscore that this must always be defended with united efforts to avoid any form of discrimination or prejudice. And I pointed to the great responsibility of religious leaders, both in teaching respect and non-violence as well as in keeping alive the most profound questions of the human mind.

The ecumenical celebration in the parish church of St. Joseph was likewise characterized by great cordiality. Together we prayed to the Lord so that he may increase in Christians the capacity to give reason - especially with increasing unity - for the great hope that is in us (cfr 1 Pt 3,15) through our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Another principal objective for my trip was the visit to the central headquarters of the Untied Nations Organization - the fourth by a Pope, after that of Paul VI in 1965 and John Paul II's two visits in 1979 and in 1995.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Providence gave me the opportunity to confirm, in the widest and most authoritative [forum for] universal consensus, the value of that declaration, recalling its universal basis, namely, the dignity of the human being, created by God in his image and likeness, in order to cooperate on earth with his great design of life and peace.

Like peace, even respect for human rights is rooted in 'justice' - that is to say, an ethical order that is valid for all times and for all peoples, that can be summarized in the famous maxim, "Do not do to others what you do not wish done to you", or expressed positively in the words of Jesus: "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you." (Mt 7,12).

On this basis, which constitutes the typical contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations, I renewed - and even today, I renew - the concrete commitment of the Catholic Church to contribute to the strengthening of international relations that are imprinted with the principles of responsibility and solidarity.

Also firmly impressed in my spirit are other moments of my stay in New York.

At St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of Manhattan - truly a 'house of prayer for all people' - I celebrated the Holy Mass for priests and consecrated persons who came from every part of the counhtry.

I will never forget the warmth with which they wished me well on the third anniversary of my election to Peter's Chair. It was a moving moment, during which I directly experienced - in sensory form - the support of the entire Church for my ministry.

I can say the same for my meeting with the young people and seminarians which took place in the diocesan seminary, preceded by a very significant visit among handicapped children and youths, along with their families.

To the young people, by nature thirsting for truth and love, I proposed the example of some men and women who testified in exemplary manner on Amerian soil to the Gospel of truth which gives us freedom to love and to serve in a life spent for others.

Facing the shadows which threaten their lives today, the youth may find in the saints the light which disperses these shadows: the light of Christ, hope for every man!

This hope, stronger than sin or death, also inspired the emotion-charged moments which I spent in silence at the vortex of Ground Zero, where I lit a candle and prayed for all the victims of that terrible tragedy.

Finally, my visit culminated in the Eucharistic celebration at New York's Yankee Stadium. I still carry in my heart that feast of faith and fraternity with which we celebrated the bicentennials of North America's oldest dioceses.

The small flock from those beginnnings has developed enormously, enriching itself in faith and with the traditions of successive immigrant waves. To that Church, which is facing the challenges of today, I had the joy of announcing once more "Christ our Hope" -yesterday, today and always.

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to join me in giving thanks for the comforting success of this apostolic voyage and in asking God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that it may produce abundant fruits for the Church in America and in all parts of the world.

Pope 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

Sandals and Fiddlebacks

~via The New Liturgical Movement.
Formal fiddleback chasubles and modest Franciscan sandals come together in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Traditional Latin Mass) at Our Lady of Guadalupe Friary of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. The video is put to beautiful music from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, our sister order. The music was recorded in Italy and is a fine example of the high quality of their music which, combined with the friars in Italy, are playing a major part in spearheading the reform of liturgical music in Italy.

The days between the resurrection and the ascension of the Lord

~by St. Leo the Great

Dearly beloved, those days which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were ratified in them and deep truths were revealed.

In those days the fear of death was removed with all its terrors, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh was established. In those days the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles through the Lord’s breathing upon them, and to the blessed Apostle Peter, set above the rest, the keys of the kingdom are entrusted and the care care of the Lord’s flock.

It was during that time that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to sweep away all the clouds of our uncertainty, reproached them for the slowness of their timid and trembling hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, they are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How much more blessed is that opening of their eyes, to the glorification of their nature, than the time when our first parents’ eyes were opened to the disastrous consequences of their transgression.

Dearly beloved, through all this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in view, to teach his own people and impress upon their eyes and their hearts that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen, risen as truly as he had been born and had suffered and died.

Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at his death on the cross and backward in believing his Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.

Truly it was great and unspeakable, that cause of their joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude the Nature of mankind went up: up above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, to pass above the angels’ ranks and to rise beyond the archangels’ heights, and to have its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, it should be associated on the throne with his glory, to whose Nature it was united in the Son.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Invasion of His Gene-ness at Catholic trade show

...Nooooo! This guy loves face time, does he not? Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson, aka Anglican Communion Wrecker Robinson, has been invited to a Catholic book sellers trade show. The organizers said that it's open to other denominations...
Bob Byrns, the RBTE show’s organizer, said in a letter that the trade show was organized “simply for the purpose of bringing liturgical book and gift sellers and their vendors together under one roof to educate ourselves about our industry, and to offer a venue in which products would be displayed and purchased, while at the same time offering additional opportunities for networking, entertainment, and worship.”

Byrns said the show’s speakers and musical artists were recommended by the publishers and retailers.

“We attempt to balance the program to meet the needs of both our Catholic and Episcopal attendees, as well as folks from other denominations,” Byrns said.

Church Publishing Incorporated, the publishing arm of the Episcopal Church, had suggested that Bishop Robinson be invited to speak at an RBTE lunch.

“We told them that would not be possible,” Byrns said. When the organization asked if Bishop Robinson could speak at the Episcopal Booksellers Association (EBA) dinner on Wednesday evening, Byrns said, “We told them that we would need to seek the approval of the EBA membership.”

According to Byrns, the EBA membership “overwhelmingly wished to extend an invitation to the Bishop, and so it happened.”

Bishop Robinson’s talk, titled “Charting the Course of the Anglican Communion,” is announced on the trade show’s web site in the RBTE schedule, which says that the talk is sponsored by Church Publishing Incorporated. The bishop’s talk is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28.
What does Robinson have to do with liturgy? And why do we need to be edumacated by him? Now if the booksellers are getting together for entertainment, well, Mama Mia, what a carnival! The guy's not welcome by his "communion" leader, Archbishop of Canterbury to their big once-a-decade shinding, but hey, let's go to a Catholic booksellers show and hawk "Charting the Course"...because we all know what choppy waters the little Anglican barque is navigating these days...a leaky barque at that...and too many commodores wrestling with the steering wheel.

Why exactly are other denominations invited to this big event?

Using the internet to find religious community

~from Newhouse News Service
The cloistered lifestyle may seem incompatible with the Internet. Unlike "active" communities of nuns and friars, who devote themselves to community service and are often seen in public, cloistered nuns and monks rarely leave the monastery. Typically, they also limit their usage of mass media so that the outside world does not distract them from a life of silence and perpetual prayer.

But now, more cloistered communities are launching Web sites as a way to increase their visibility and assist young men and women who are exploring religious life. And while there are no statistics to suggest that the Internet is bolstering interest in the life, many cloistered monasteries that have embraced the technology say they are starting to receive more inquiries about their lifestyle through the Internet and, in some cases, experiencing newfound growth.

The Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary got its introduction to the online world about eight years ago, when the sisters invited two aspiring priests to give a talk about the pros and cons of the Internet. Despite some initial concerns, the women took a vote and decided it could be used in a positive way to educate interested women about their life, recalled Sister Judith Miryam and Sister Mary Catharine, two of the more Internet-savvy nuns.

In 2004, the two women decided to launch a blog to engage people and take them inside the monastery walls. The blog is written from the cloistered community's perspective and it talks about everything from the handmade soap they sell to the problem with rabbits eating their garden.

"This is how these young women communicate, and this is how they want to be communicated to," said Sister Judith Miryam, who maintains the Web site and believes the blog has helped spur the interest of six new women there, all of whom found the monastery on the Internet.

Many people who find their monastery of choice on the Internet say they are happy to leave the technology behind. While some cloistered monasteries like the one in Summit allow minimal Internet usage to e-mail family or buy groceries, others prohibit it.

That is the case for the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming, a new monastery founded in Clark, Wyo., in 2003 whose Web site has caught the interest of some aspiring monks.

Soft chants begin to play as its site pops up, and visitors are greeted by a photo of three monks bathed in the glow of candlelight. The monastery has eight members and another six candidates on the way.

The site was created shortly after the monastery's founding and improved several months ago. But if interested men want to contact the monastery, they have to pick up the phone or write a letter. The community does not have Internet access; the site is maintained by people outside the monastery.

"Why have the walls around the monastery when the Internet is literally the world at your fingertips?" asked Brother Simon Mary, 24, who found the monastery online but does not miss the technology. "For us, those things kind of break down the integrity of the enclosure. We believe it's important to use these modern resources ... but at the same time in a way that will not be detrimental to the world we're striving after."

It's hard to say if the Internet is helping to bolster growth in cloistered communities. But the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Georgetown University, is planning to launch a survey that will look at recent membership patterns in active and cloistered communities. The survey also will include questions about the Internet's role in vocations, said Sister Mary Bendyna, the center's executive director.

A Silver Treasure in Sweden

~Just imagine a boy and his granddaddy together stumbling upon a hoard. From The Earth Times
Stockholm - A 9-year-old boy's search for shrapnel on an old battlefield resulted in a huge find of medieval silver coins near the Lund in southern Sweden, local media reported Monday. Alexander Granhof, 9, and his grandfather made the recent discovery, dubbed "silverado" by archaeologists.

"We went out on the field looking for cannonballs," Alexander Granhof told the online edition of the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

"I found a piece of metal and thought at first it was shrapnel from a shotgun. I shouted to grandfather and then we discovered more and more coins," he added.

In all, the pair found more than 4,600 coins on the field. Archaeologists, using metal detectors, boosted the tally to 7,000 but did not rule out that even more coins were hidden in the soil.

"This is incredible," Bernd Gerlach of the Lund University Historical Museum told reporters.

Both Alexander and his grandfather Jens Granhof are interested in archaeology and went treasure hunting after reading about a treasure buried somewhere in the province of Scania.

No reward sum has yet been determined but the silver in the treasure alone was estimated to be worth 1.5 million kronor (250,000 dollars).

During the 13th century when the coins were hidden, the sum could have fetched some 15 serfs, museum head Per Karsten said.

The coins had been placed in two urns that were wrapped in cloth. The treasure was likely buried during troubled times, and one theory was that the coins were church taxes collected from nearby farms.

The find included thousands of English coins with a high silver content and some other markers that likely were used locally.
Here's the lad:

Look at me! Look at me!

~Good grief! Such preening self-worship...."It's a sin to treat me this way" Gene Robinson. From The Telegraph
"Look at me," the 61-year-old prelate protests when I repeat the charge that he is single-handedly driving Anglicanism to its death. [you may stop reading if you wish...he hath spoken truthfully and fully and that's it...look at me]

"I'm a little guy and I don't have that much power. Now if someone chooses to leave the worldwide [Anglican] communion because I'm a bishop, then that's their doing, not mine."Or, at least not at the gatherings of the bishops. "I'm going to be there, in the market place," he says, "making myself available to anyone who wants to talk."

He won't, as many Anglicans seem to hope, be allowing the whole issue to go away. It is in this refusal to be silent that I finally begin to see in this otherwise gentle and genial prelate that flash of steely resolve that drives all implacable dissenters forward.

"Jesus never says anything about homosexuality," he says, the light tone in his nasal voice suddenly darkening, "but he says a lot about treating every person with dignity and respect. All the biblical appeals for a particular attitude to homosexuality can never quote Jesus."

What, though, of Old Testament condemnations of "men who lay with men"?

"The Church isn't the same yesterday, today and tomorrow," he says.

"Only God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Church has always been changing. The Holy Spirit is leading us into truth. And I believe we have learnt that about people of colour, about women, about those who are disabled and now about lesbian and gay people."

He would, I can see, be impressive in a pulpit. Perhaps it was his oratory that caused the Anglican electors of New Hampshire to vote decisively for him in 2003, and his fellow American bishops to give him their backing.

But, whatever their motives, their decision has had the effect of bringing to a head Anglicanism's muddled attitude to sexuality.

"As Anglicans we agree about so many things," Robinson concedes. "We are not arguing over the divinity of Christ, the Trinity or the Resurrection. We are arguing about a non-essential thing."

The Grandeur of Reason Rome on 1-4 September, 2008 presented by the Centre of Theology and Philosophy
At the dawn of the twenty-first century humanity faces grave incertitude—accelerated technological advances pose new and disconcerting questions in the moral sphere (bioethics); the ever present threat of a clash of cultures between Islam and the West (terrorism and pre-emptive warfare); a political sphere in the West that is increasingly ruled by an intolerant secularism grounded in a radical commitment to relativism.

It is in this context that Pope Benedict, in his Regensburg address, called for the intellectual “courage to engage the whole breadth of reason”. The Pope’s injunction is for a new relationship to reason—reason in its “grandeur”. This alone, the Holy Father argues, can facilitate the genuine dialogue of cultures and communication between peoples that is so desperately needed.

The Pope’s call for a new reasonable communication is nothing less than a call to rethink the nature of reason itself. The first step is to acknowledge the fact that our contemporary notions of reason (whether conditioned by the Enlightenment or postmodernism) have failed to produce that communication and dialogue between divergent interests that can lead to harmonious co-existence and understanding among peoples. Indeed it may be that it is precisely our contemporary conception of reason itself, which is largely responsible for the dialogical breakdown that underpins the hostile fissures that now threaten us (whether between religion and the secular sphere in the West, or between the West and Islam in the global arena). According to the Pope this situation has been facilitated by the hegemony of unmediated conceptions of “truth”: (i) voluntaristic conceptions of God that have cordoned “reason” from religious “truth”; and (ii) the reduction of reason to the “empirically falsifiable” sphere of meaning, supposedly replete and thus without need of recourse to any “faith”. These unmediated notions of “truth” have foreclosed dialogical communication, and given way simultaneously to the agnostic relativism of the purely “secular” sphere on the one hand, and the fundamentalisms of extremist religion in the “sacred” sphere on the other.

The Pope’s argument for an enlarged sense of reason is an argument for a re-hellenization of reason. In this context the universalism of Christianity has a concrete role to play as that particular cultural exemplar of the symphonic synthesis of the spirit of rational human inquiry with faith in divine revelation. Therein Christianity’s universalism is a universalism grounded in a cultural tradition that cherishes at once the “grandeur” of human reason and the personal revelation of the One God.

Taking up the injunction of Regensburg, this conference will seek to begin thinking through the re-hellenization of Christian faith. In this way the conference will focus on the importance of Christian “truth” and the tradition of how faith and reason are bound together in the universal claim of the Gospel. From this standpoint we hope to begin thinking through an authentic understanding of tolerance and ecumenism. Our task is thus to establish a path of honest intercultural communication in pursuit of universal truth, guided by the “grandeur” of reason, and unashamedly grounded in the cultural and historical tradition of Christianity.

Reason and faith must come together in a new way.

From St. Catherine's Dialogues

My sweet Lord, look with mercy upon your people and especially upon the mystical body of your Church. Greater glory is given to your name for pardoning a multitude of your creatures than if I alone were pardoned for my great sins against your majesty. It would be no consolation for me to enjoy your life if your holy people stood in death. For I see that sin darkens the life of your bride the Church - my sin and the sins of others.

It is a special grace I ask for, this pardon for the creatures you have made in your image and likeness. When you created man, you were moved by love to make him in your own image. Surely only love could so dignify your creatures. But I know very well that man lost the dignity you gave him; he deserved to lose it, since he had committed sin.

Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature. What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can anyone’s heart remain closed and hardened after this?

We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in a man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity. Only your love could so dignify the flesh of Adam. And so by reason of this immeasurable love I beg, with all the strength of my soul, that you freely extend your mercy to all your lowly creatures.

~St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogues 4, 13

Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Pinturicchio

Feast of St. Catherine of Siena

Catherine, the youngest of twenty-five children, was born in Siena on March 25, 1347. During her youth she had to contend with great difficulties on the part of her parents. They were planning marriage for their favorite daughter; but Catherine, who at the age of seven had already taken a vow of virginity, refused. To break her resistance, her beautiful golden brown tresses were shorn to the very skin and she was forced to do the most menial tasks. Undone by her patience, mother and father finally relented and their child entered the Third Order of St. Dominic.

Unbelievable were her austerities, her miracles, her ecstasies. The reputation of her sanctity soon spread abroad; thousands came to see her, to be converted by her. The priests associated with her, having received extraordinary faculties of absolution, were unable to accommodate the crowds of penitents. She was a helper and a consoler in every need. As time went on, her influence reached out to secular and ecclesiastical matters. She made peace between worldly princes. The heads of Church and State bowed to her words. She weaned Italy away from an anti-pope, and made cardinals and princes promise allegiance to the rightful pontiff. She journeyed to Avignon and persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. Even though she barely reached the age of thirty-three her accomplishments place her among the great women of the Middle Ages. The virgin Catherine was espoused to Christ by a precious nuptial ring which, although visible only to her, always remained on her finger.

~from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

I tasted and I saw

~by St. Catherine of Siena

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Homily at Ordinations at St. Peter's Basilica

~translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, in a very special way, the words "You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing" (Is 9,2) are realized for us. Indeed, to the joy of celebrating the Eucharist on the Lord's day, is also added the spiritual exultation of Eastertide which has now reached the sixth Sunday, and above all, the feast of ordaining new priests.

Together with you, I greet affectionately the 29 deacons who will be ordained priests shortly. I express my great acknowledgment to those who led them along their path of discernment and preparation, and I invite you all to give thanks to God for the gift to the Church of these new priests.

Let us support them with intense prayer during this celebration, in a spirit of fervent praise to the Father who called them, to the Son who drew them to him, to the Spirit which formed them.

Usually, the ordination of new priests takes place on the fourth Sunday of Easter, called the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, which is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, but this year, it was not possible because I was setting off for my pastoral visit to the United States of America.

The icon of the Good Shepherd seems to be that which more than any other brings to light the role and the ministry of the priesthood in the Christian community.

But even the Biblical passages which today's liturgy offers for our meditation, illumine, from a different angle, the mission of the priest.

The first Reading, taken from chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles, narrates the mission of the deacon Phillip to Samaria. I wish to call attention right away to the sentence that closes the first part of the text: "And there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8,8).

This expression does not communicate an idea, a theological concept, but refers to an event in detail, something that changed the life of people: in a certain city of Samaria, in the time that followed the first violent persecution against the Church of Jerusalem (cfr Acts 8,1), something happened which brought 'great joy'.

What had happened? The sacred author narrates that, in order to escape the persecution that had broken out in Jerusalem against those who had converted to Christianity, all the disciples, including the Apostles, abandoned the Holy City and dispersed throughout the surrounding countryside.

But this sad event led, in a mysterious and providential manner, to a renewed impulse to spread the Gospel. Among those who were dispersed was Phillip, one of the seven deacons of the Community, a deacon like you, dear ordinands, even if in a very different manner, because in that irrepeatable season of the early Church, the Apostles and the deacons were endowed by the Holy Spirit with an extraordinary power for preaching as well as for thaumaturgical action.

It so happens that the inhabitants of that Samaritan locality, which is spoken of in this chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, unanimously welcomed the preaching of Phillip, and thanks to their adhesion to the Gospel, he was able to heal many sick persons.

In that city of Samaria, among a people who were traditionally despised and almost excommunicated by the Judeans, the proclamation of Christ resounded and opened to joy the hearts of all those who received him with trust. That is why, St. Luke underscores, in that city "there was great joy."

Dear friends, this is also your mission: to bring the Gospel to everyone, so that everyone may experience the joy of Christ and there may be joy in every city. What can be more beautiful than this? What can be greater, more worthy of enthusiasm, than to cooperate in spreading throughout the world the Word of life, than to communicate the living water of the Holy Spirit?

To announce and testify to joy: this is the central nucleus of your mission, dear deacons who, in a short while, will be priests.

The Apostle Paul calls the ministers of the Gospel 'servants of joy'. To the Christians of Corinth, in his Second Letter, he writes: "Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith" (2 Cor 1,24). These are programmatic words for every priest.

To be collaborators in the joy of others, in a world that is often sad and negative, the fire of the Gospel must burn within you, the joy of the Lord must dwell within you. Then and only then can you be messengers and multipliers of this joy, bringing it to everyone, especially those who are sad and have lost truth.

Let us return to the first Reading which offers us another element for meditation. It talks of a prayer meeting which takes place in that same Samaritan city that had been evangelized by the deacon Phillip. Presiding over it were the apostles Peter and John, two 'pillars' of the Church, who came from Jerusalem to visit this new community and confirm it in the faith.

Thanks to their laying of hands, the Holy Spirit descended on those who had been baptized. We can see in this episode a first attestation of the rite of Confirmation, the second sacrament in Christian initiation.

Even for us who are gathered here, the reference to the ritual gesture of the laying of hands is very significant. It is, in fact, also the central gesture of the rite of Ordination, through which shortly I will confer on the candidates the dignity of priesthood.

It is a sign that is inseparable from prayer, of which it is a silent prolongation. Without saying a word, the consecrating Bishop and after him, other priests, lay their hands on the heads of the ordinands, expressing thereby an invocation to God that he may instill his Spirit in them and transform them by making them take part in the Priesthood of Christ. It only takes a few seconds, a very brief time, but it is charged with extraordinary spiritual density.

Dear Ordinands, in the future you will always return to this moment, to this gesture which has nothing of magic in it, and yet it is very rich in mystery, because this is the start of your new mission.

In that silent prayer, an encounter between two freedoms takes place: the freedom of God, working through the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of man.

The laying of hands expresses graphically the specific modality of this encounter: the Church, represented by the Bishop on his feet with his hands extended, prays to the Holy Spirit to consecrate the candidate; the deacon, on his knees, receives the imposition of hands and entrusts himself to such mediation.

The ensemble of the gestures is significant, but infinitely more important is the spiritual movement, unseen, that it expresses: a movement well evoked in sacred silence which envelops everything outside as well as inside.

We find this mysterious trinitarian movement, which leads the Holy Spirit and the Son to dwell in the disciples, even in the evangelical pericope (passage cited in the Mass). Here it is Jesus himself who promises that he will pray to the Father so that he will send his Spirit, defined as 'another Paraclete" (Jn 14,16), a Greek term which is equivalent to the Latin'ad-vocatus', advocate and defender.

The first Paraclete is the Incarnate Son, who came to defend man from Satan, the accuser by definition. From the moment Christ, having completed his mission, returns to the Father, the latter sends the Spirit as Defender and Comforter, so that he may stay for always with believers, dwelling within them.

Thus, between God the Father and the disciples, thanks to the mediation of the Son and the Holy Spirit, an intimate relationship of reciprocity is established: "I am in the Father, you are in me, and I in you", says Jesus (Jn 14,20).

But all this depends on a condition that Christ sets clearly at the start: "If you love me" (Jn 14,15), and which he repeats at the end: "Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him" (Jn 14,21).

Without love for Jesus, which is shown by observing his commandments, a person excludes himself from the trinitarian communion and starts to fold back into himself, losing the capacity to receive and communicate God.

"If you love me". Dear friends, Jesus said these words at the Last Supper at the moment when, contextually, he instituted the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Although addressed to the Apostles, in a certain sense, the words are addressed to all their successors and to the priests, who are the closest collaborators of the successors to the Apostles.

We listen to it again today as an invitation to live ever more consistently our vocation in the Church: you, dear Ordinands, hear it with particular emotion, because it is today that Christ makes you participants in his Priesthood. Receive it with faith and with love!

Let it be impressed in your heart. Let it accompany you along the course of your entire existence. Do not forget it. Do not lose your way. Reread it, meditate on it often, and above all, pray with those words in mind. In that way, you will remain faithful to the love of Christ and you will always be aware - with a joy that is ever new - how this divine Word 'walks' with you and 'grows' in you.

One more observation about the second Reading: it is taken from the First Letter of Peter, near whose tomb we find ourselves and to whose intercession I wish to entrust you most specially. I will make his words mine and pass them on to you with affection: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" (1 Peter 3,15).

Adore Christ the Lord in your hearts; that means, cultivate a personal relationship of love with him, the first and greatest love, unique and totalizing, within which to love, purify, illumine and sanctify all your other relationships.

'The hope that is in you' is bound to this adoration, to this love of Christ, who through the Spirit, as we say, dwells in us. Our hope, your hope, is God, in Jesus and in the Spirit. A hope which from today becomes 'priestly hope' in you, that of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who dwells in you and gives form to your desires according to the divine heart: hope of life and of forgiveness for the persons who will be entrusted to your pastoral care; hope of holiness and of apostolic fruitfulness for you and for all the Church; hope of an opening to faith and to an encounter with God for all those who come to you in their search for truth; hope of peace and comfort for the suffering and those who are injured by life.

Dearest ones, this is my wish for you on this day that is so significant to you: that hope rooted in faith may always be yours! And may you always be witnesses and givers, wise and generous, kind and strong, respectful and convincing.

On this mission, may you be accompanied always and protected by the Virgin Mary, whom I exhort you to welcome anew, as did the apostle John at the foot of the Cross, as Mother and Star of your life and your priesthood. Amen.

Pope Benedict on Music

~A beautiful discourse on music and hope, the soul that is enraptured by the beauty of God. This is from his address following a concert given by the Giuseppi Verdi Orchestra and Chorus in honor of the third anniversary of Pope Benedict's pontificate. Translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum
This leads us to consider the spiritual value of the musical art, which is called upon, in a singular manner, to instill hope in the human spirit that is so affected and often hurt by our earthly condition.

There is a mysterious and profound kinship between music and hope, between song and eternal life: There is a reason that Christian tradition depicts the blessed spirits in the act of singing together, rapt and ecstatic at the beauty of God.

But authentic art, like prayer, does not alienate us from the reality of every day, but rather enables us to return to our routine in order to 'irrigate' it and make it sprout to bear fruits of goodness and pace.

The masterful itnterpretations which we have just heard also remind us of the value and universal importance of the artistic patrimony. I think especially of the younger generations, who by coming close to such patrimony, may always draw new inspiration to construct a world of justice and solidarity, by appreciating, in the service of mankind, the multiform expressions of world culture.

I am also thinking of the importance that education must give to authentic beauty in the formation of young people. Art in its entirety contributes to refine their spirit and to orient them towards building a society that is open to the ideals of the spirit.

Italy, with its exceptional artistic patrimony, can play, in this respect, an important role in the world: the quantity and quality of the monuments and works of art that it possesses make it, in fact, the universal 'messenger' of all those values that art expresses and promotes at the same time.

Moreover, the festiveness of song and music is in itself a constant invitation to believers and men of good will to commit themselves in order to give mankind a future rich with hope.

Old-guard feminists and Catholicism

~by Kathryn Jean Lopez in Dallas News
In the run-up to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States, there was a tremendous display of unseriousness at the National Press Club, followed by a sacrilege at a nearby Washington, D.C., church.

A misguided group called the Women's Ordination Conference held a protest – a press conference and an all-woman "Mass" at a local Methodist church. The group, as the name suggests, wants to see "the ordination of women as priests, deacons and bishops." Sadly, the group doesn't understand women or the Catholic Church.

In a prepared statement, WOC executive director Aisha Taylor declared:

"The failure to ordain women is a blatant manifestation of sexism in the church that has wider repercussions in the world.

"In the three years of his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has made a few encouraging statements about women, but he has done nothing that suggests willingness to open the discussion on women's ordination. That's why for his 81st birthday, we are offering the pope a present: the gift of women, their leadership, talents, experiences and unique perspectives."

The group trailed the popemobile to papal events with a billboard truck that asked: "Pope Benedict, How long must women wait for equality? Ordain Catholic Women."

As they are stuck on their version of "equality," the fundamental problem with the group and its message is that whatever Benedict says or does will not be enough for them. They are not open to listening, but to dictating an unworkable agenda. If they were open to it, they would hear and see the Roman Catholic Church's embrace and celebration of women. Women will not be priests, but they will always be an essential part of the Church...

... When I recently toured St. Peter's Basilica for the first time, my group of traveling American female commentators couldn't help but to notice the overwhelming presence of women in the home of St. Peter and his papal successors. Female saints and virtues portrayed as women: Charity, Truth, Prudence and Justice. Charity is presented as a mother nursing a baby, with additional children at her feet. I thought of the many stay-at-home moms doing the grassroots work of civilization-building.

To take the conventional feminist view of the Catholic Church in relation to how it views women is to miss the real message of new feminism it offers: a prayerful ode to the important differences between men and women, the obscuring of which has degraded our broader culture over the last few decades.

To state that "in the face of one closed door after another, Catholic women have been innovative, courageous and faithful to the church," as the women of the Women's Ordination Conference do, suggests they've never been to St. Peter's, where the doors are open and full of celebration for an essential part of God's creation: women.
I like that: a tremendous display of unseriousness!

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

The Holy Spirit renews us in baptism

~by Didymus of Alexandria

The Holy Spirit renews us in baptism through his Godhead, which he shares with the Father and the Son. Finding us in a state of deformity, the Spirit restores our original beauty and fills us with his grace, leaving no room for anything unworthy of our love. The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from the earthly men we were, men of dust and ashes, into spiritual men, sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father who bear a likeness to the Son and are his co-heirs and brothers, destined to reign with him and to share his glory. In place of earth the Spirit reopens heaven to us and gladly admits us into paradise, giving us even now greater honour than the angels, and by the holy waters of baptism extinguishing the unquenchable fires of hell.

We men are conceived twice: to the human body we owe our first conception, to the divine Spirit, our second. John says: To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. These were born not by human generation, not by the desire of the flesh, not by the will of man, but of God. All who believed in Christ, he says, received power to become children of God, that is, of the Holy Spirit, and to gain kinship with God. To show that their parent was God the Holy Spirit, he adds these words of Christ: I give you this solemn warning, that without being born of water and the Spirit, no one can enter the kingdom of God.

Visibly, through the ministry of priests, the font gives symbolic birth to our visible bodies. Invisibly, through the ministry of angels, the Spirit of God, whom even the mind’s eye cannot see, baptises into himself both our souls and bodies, giving them a new birth.

Speaking quite literally, and also in harmony with the words of water and the Spirit, John the Baptist says of Christ: He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Since we are only vessels of clay, we must first be cleansed in water and then hardened by spiritual fire – for God is a consuming fire. We need the Holy Spirit to perfect and renew us, for spiritual fire can cleanse us, and spiritual water can recast us as in a furnace and make us into new men.The Holy Spirit renews us in baptism

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lasting Impact of Pope Benedict's Visit

~I started reading this article from The New York Times and then decided for the sake of my equilibrium to see if Fr. Z had his comments up. Thankfully, he had. Here's an excerpt with Fr Z's comments in red.
Of course, Benedict came to the United States knowing that the God crisis is hardly as acute here as it is in Europe and that what has been troubling American Roman Catholicism is the church crisis. [As a result he had to so something about those structures or people in the Church who are dysfunctional.] And just as the God crisis has both a personal dimension and an intellectual one, the church crisis has both a personal dimension and a structural one.

The pope certainly addressed the personal dimension. He exhorted the bishops to be “engaging and imaginative.” [for example, it is entirely possible that many bishops today, so pressured by matters of administration, have come to see themselves more as senators or CEO’s than bishops.] He worried out loud about the state of the liturgy [Because liturgy is the tip of the spear.] and whether preaching had “lost its salt.” He underlined the need for more priests. He urged the healing of divisions in Catholic ranks. [A main division is that which now exists in many places between priests and their bishop.] He called on all Catholics to take their beliefs into public life. [This is a key point, which needs more attention: in order to give something useful in the public square, we must have a clear identity!] Most of all, in meeting with victims of sexual abuse by priests, he offered a model of pastoral sensitivity.

About the structural dimension of the church crisis, however, he said nothing. Does the American church need new or refurbished structures of transparency, accountability and consultation in a wide range of matters, including finances, parish closings and the appointment and assignment of bishops and pastors? [It sounds like the writer is advocating for this, disguising advocacy as a question.]

Should new roles for the laity in parish leadership be more formally recognized? ["Formally"? How? Only clerics can exercise certain levels of jurisdiction.] Are changes beyond prayer and exhortation needed to combat the growing shortage of priests? What about the ordination of married men or women or the reintroduction of female deacons? [What about them? This is advocacy, not the mere raising of questions. And notice the word "reintroduction"? There never were female deacons, at least not as clerics or in holy orders. So, this is deceptive in some ways.]

Such structural changes are favored by many moderate-to-liberal Catholics. [I dispute the premise. I do not believe that any Catholic who is truly moderate, or anywhere near moderate, will advocate the "reintroduction" of female deacons (who never existed).] There are less publicized ones favored by some conservatives, including tight episcopal control over Catholic higher education, ["Tight" control? I wish more bishops exercised "some" control! According to the document Ex corde Ecclesiae!] restoration of traditional forms of seminary training and broad resort to oaths of fidelity. ["Broad resort" ... what to make of that phrase. It smacks of desperation, no? I think what the writer is doing is presenting "positive" solutions from the liberals and "desperate" crackdowns from conservatives. Or am I getting this wrong?]
New roles for laity? Ordination of married men or women...blah, blah...and hey, presto! "re-introduction of female deacons"...what?..where?...when?

Impact of the Pope's Visit

~from CNS (Ah, Fr. Reese again!)
"In general, the visit was a terrific success. He hit a home run every time he went up to bat," said Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center in Washington.

Pre-trip speculation about whether Pope Benedict would address the clergy sex abuse crisis was put aside from the start when the pope spoke on the plane ride to Washington of being "deeply ashamed" about the scandal. He followed those comments with several other references to the abuse scandal and then a personal meeting with abuse victims.

The pope did "exactly what American Catholics needed and wanted to see" from the person with the highest authority in the church, Father Reese said, adding that the directness will have a positive impact on the church.

"He took the issue seriously, knowing that apologizing once wasn't going to do it," the priest added.

Thomas Groome, director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College, called the pope's visit a "resounding success," where he "did and said all the right things."

In an e-mail to Catholic News Service, Groome said Pope Benedict offered Catholics and other Christians of this country a "new apologetic" for their faith that he described as "one of persuasion rather than legislation," where he encouraged people to follow the "way of Jesus" to find freedom, truth and happiness.

The pope also reached out to young people, making reference to them in homilies and meeting with them on the grounds of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., April 19.

Mike Hayes, associate director of Paulist Young Adult Ministries in New York and managing editor of the Paulist online site, said the immediate impact of Pope Benedict's visit might not necessarily be a flood of new vocations despite encouragement in that direction. Instead, he said, more young people will be "interested in connecting with what it means to be Catholic in today's world."

To those who wondered how Pope Benedict would fill Pope John Paul II's shoes, especially with youths and young adults, Hayes has this perspective: "Where (Pope) John Paul was a rock star, (Pope) Benedict might be the audiobook."

Simply put, people came to be with Pope John Paul; they came to listen to Pope Benedict, he told CNS April 24.

Pope Benedict is "very direct, telling people, 'This is where we need to be,'" Hayes said, noting that even though the pope is "not a sound-bite guy" his directness is "something that young people really connect with."

And they weren't just thrilled to see him for the moment either, because, as Hayes pointed out, many young adults have read Pope Benedict's two encyclicals on hope and love and now, of course, they can read his various messages to the U.S. church.

Reading material is certainly one thing Pope Benedict left behind with papal texts available online at:, and in a special issue of Origins, the CNS documentary service. As Father Reese pointed out, the pope's substantive speeches and homilies will "require reading and rereading."

The pope also left behind an improved image of himself among U.S. Catholics. Just two weeks before his arrival, only 18 percent of the general public and 37 percent of Catholics said they knew a lot about Pope Benedict.

If the poll were redone now, Father Reese said, "the pope's approval rating should skyrocket."
Enough already with the "rock-star" stuff.

The Pope's Music

~from Inside Catholic by Robert Reilly
The day before the pope's Mass, the "Style" section of the Washington Post ran an amusing story by Hank Stuever on music and the pope's visit, and on how the younger generation has turned against the Sixties and Seventies "Kumbaya Catholicism." In one part, the story told of the experience of choir director Jeffery Tucker:

At a recent conference, a jazz pianist confided to Tucker that he'd been playing at church, but there was a new, young pastor who had taken over and "he said, 'you know what that means' [and] I said, 'well, I'm not entirely sure.' So, he added, surprised that he would have to clarify, 'That means he wants Gregorian chant!'"

I take this as another sign that the Holy Spirit is active in the Church today.

But where does Pope Benedict XVI stand on the music issue? As it turns out, there was an outstanding piece in The Australian (April 12), "A Battle Against Banality," by Christopher Pearson that gives the answer. (Benedict's travels this summer to Australia for World Youth Day.) In the article, Catholic theologian Tracey Rowland is quoted as saying of the pope's cultural critique:
Ratzinger has focused on practices (that) diminish the possibilities of the soul or the self, for its own transcendence. The marketing of vulgar art, music and literature and the generation of a very low, even barbaric, mass culture is seen by Ratzinger to be one of the serious pathologies of contemporary Western culture. By this reading, clerics who think that they will win young people to the church by adopting the marketing strategies of public relations firms and attempting a transposition of the church's cultural patrimony into the idioms of contemporary mass culture are only further diminishing the opportunities of youth for genuine self-transcendence.

One immediate consequence of this position has been Benedict's insistence on music worthy of the liturgy, rather than "utility music" derived from 1960s youth culture. He says: "A church which only makes use of utility music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. The church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos and, by glorifying the creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable and beloved. Next to the saints, the art which the church has produced is the only real apologia for her history. The church is to transform, improve, humanise the world, but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love? For together beauty and love form the true consolation in this world, bringing it as near as possible to the world of the resurrection."
Surely, no one has spoken of music in a more exalted way than has this pope, who restores to art its hieratic purpose. Is this inclusive? Is the cosmos inclusive? Is Christ inclusive? As St. Clement of Alexandria taught, Christ is the "New Song" of the universe. "[It] is this [New Song] that composed the entire creation into melodious order, and tuned into concert the discord of the elements, that the whole universe may be in harmony with it." How is that for inclusive? That New Song is not played on bongo drums, as that would be exclusive -- in the sense that it would exclude the transcendent, which cannot be reached by any bongo drums I have ever heard.

My acid test for any part of the liturgy, including the music, is this: Would a complete stranger observing it believe that what is taking place is the most important thing in these people's lives? I cannot express how I have missed that sense of sanctity in the Mass with which I grew up. I am also a man of the theatre. I was an actor in my early professional life, so I understand the stage. That is what infuriated me about the "new" liturgy of the 1970s. Any competent stage director could have told the liturgical innovators that it did not convey the presence of the sacred. It was so obvious that the conclusion occurred that they must not think the sacred was present. Many parishioners got the message, as they stopped believing in the Real Presence.

No, the transcendent can only be pointed to or reached by the greatest art. When is the last time you heard music at Mass that reinforced your faith rather than tested it? When is the last time you heard the cosmos in your parish?

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ

~by St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop

Those who have a sure hope, guaranteed by the Spirit, that they will rise again lay hold of what lies in the future as though it were already present. They say: “Outward appearances will no longer be our standard in judging other men. Our lives are all controlled by the Spirit now, and are not confined to this physical world that is subject to corruption. The light of the Only-begotten has shone on us, and we have been transformed into the Word, the source of all life. While sin was still our master, the bonds of death had a firm hold on us, but now that the righteousness of Christ has found a place in our hearts we have freed ourselves from our former condition of corruptibility”.

This means that none of us lives in the flesh anymore, at least not in so far as living in the flesh means being subject to the weaknesses of the flesh, which include corruptibility. Once we thought of Christ as being in the flesh, but we do not do so any longer, says Saint Paul. By this he meant that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; he suffered death in the flesh in order to give all men life. It was in this flesh that we knew him before, but we do so no longer. Even though he remains in the flesh, since he came to life again on the third day and is now with his Father in heaven, we know that he has passed beyond the life of the flesh; for having died once, he will never die again, death has no power over him any more. His death was a death to sin, which he died once for all; his life is life with God.

Since Christ has in this way become the source of life for us, we who follow in his footsteps must not think of ourselves as living in the flesh any longer, but as having passed beyond it. Saint Paul’s saying is absolutely true that when anyone is in Christ he becomes a completely different person: his old life is over and a new life has begun. We have been justified by our faith in Christ and the power of the curse has been broken. Christ’s coming to life again for our sake has put an end to the sovereignty of death. We have come to know the true God and to worship him in spirit and in truth, through the Son, our mediator, who sends down upon the world the Father’s blessings.

And so Saint Paul shows deep insight when he says: This is all God’s doing: it is he who has reconciled us to himself through Christ. For the mystery of the incarnation and the renewal it accomplished could not have taken place without the Father’s will. Through Christ we have gained access to the Father, for as Christ himself says, no one comes to the Father except through him. This is all God’s doing, then. It is he who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tsunami of seminary applications

~from CNA

St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York, has received dozens of applications following Pope Benedict’s visit, the New York Daily News reports.

"It's been like a tsunami, a good tsunami of interest," said Father Luke Sweeney, the Archdiocese of New York's vocations director. “I've been meeting people all week and have a lot of e-mails I haven't had the chance yet to respond to. It has been incredible.”

For the first time in 108 years, the seminary had been preparing for a year with no students. Only 23 seminarians are expected to be ordained for New York City over the next four years. A study carried out by Catholic World Report claims the archdiocese’s ratio of priests to congregation members is among the worst in the country.

Currently there are only 648 diocesan priests for the Archdiocese of New York, which has 2.5 million Catholics.

“We are facing a severe shortage,” Father Sweeney said. The vocations director recently launched a recruitment campaign that uses the slogans “The World Needs Heroes” and “You Have To Be a Real Man If You Want to Become a Priest.”

“We were hoping the Pope would convince many who were considering the priesthood to make the next step. It looks like he did,” he said.

The Pope spoke to a rally of 25,000 young people on the seminary’s grounds last Saturday, April 19.

Father Sweeney described how the Pope’s words affected one new applicant.

“One said he came, saw the crowd, heard what the Pope said and then called us," the priest said. "He said his questions and concerns were answered when he heard him speak.”

EU Wipes England off the Map

...what monumental stupidity! Brussels has decided that to promote peace, old borders are to be abolished. The new plan will have transnational regions...they won't have powers, mind you. Can you spell disaster with a Capital D, boys and girls? (hat tip to Marcus). From The Telegraph. Oh, and the article was printed on the Feast of St. George.
The new European plan splits England into three zones that are joined with areas in other countries.

The "Manche" region covers part of southern England and northern France while the Atlantic region includes western parts of England, Portugal, Spain and Wales.

The North Sea region includes eastern England, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and parts of Germany.

A copy of the map, which makes no reference to England or Britain, has even renamed the English Channel the "Channel Sea".

Each zone will have a "transnational regional assembly", although they will not have extensive powers. However, the zones are regarded as symbolically important by other countries.
What's depressing is reading the comments posted by the readers who are in favor of such a stupid idea.

The Easter Alleluia

~by St. Augustine

Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God, because it is in praising God that we shall rejoice for ever in the life to come; and no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains himself for it now. So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we make our petitions to him. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning. We have been promised something we do not yet possess, and because the promise was made by one who keeps his word, we trust him and are glad; but insofar as possession is delayed, we can only long and yearn for it. It is good for us to persevere in longing until we receive what was promised, and yearning is over; then praise alone will remain.

Because there are these two periods of time – the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy – we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing.

Both these periods are represented and demonstrated for us in Christ our head. The Lord’s passion depicts for us our present life of trial – shows how we must suffer and be afflicted and finally die. The Lord’s resurrection and glorification show us the life that will be given to us in the future.

Now therefore, brethren, we urge you to praise God. That is what we are all telling each other when we say Alleluia. You say to your neighbour, “Praise the Lord!” and he says the same to you. We are all urging one another to praise the Lord, and all thereby doing what each of us urges the other to do. But see that your praise comes from your whole being; in other words, see that you praise God not with your lips and voices alone, but with your minds, your lives and all your actions.

We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it seems as if we cease to praise God. But provided we do not cease to live a good life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from justice and from what is pleasing to God. If you never turn aside from the good life, your tongue may be silent but your actions will cry aloud, and God will perceive your intentions; for as our ears hear each other’s voices, so do God’s ears hear our thoughts.

Listen to Fr. Z's podcast on this reading

Friday, April 25, 2008

Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

John Mark, later known simply as Mark, was a Jew by birth. He was the son of that Mary who was proprietress of the Cenacle or "upper room" which served as the meeting place for the first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He was still a youth at the time of the Savior's death. In his description of the young man who was present when Jesus was seized and who fled from the rabble leaving behind his "linen cloth," the second Evangelist might possibly have stamped the mark of his own identity.

During the years that followed, the rapidly maturing youth witnessed the growth of the infant Church in his mother's Upper Room and became acquainted with its traditions. This knowledge he put to excellent use when compiling his Gospel. Later, we find Mark acting as a companion to his cousin Barnabas and Saul on their return journey to Antioch and on their first missionary journey. But Mark was too immature for the hardships of this type of work and therefore left them at Perge in Pamphylia to return home.

As the two apostles were preparing for their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take his cousin with him. Paul, however, objected. Thereupon the two cousins undertook a missionary journey to Cyprus. Time healed the strained relations between Paul and Mark, and during the former's first Roman captivity (61-63), Mark rendered Paul valuable service (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), and the Apostle learnt to appreciate him. When in chains the second time Paul requested Mark's presence (2 Tim. 4:11).

An intimate friendship existed between Mark and Peter; he played the role of Peter's companion, disciple, and interpreter. According to the common patristic opinion, Mark was present at Peter's preaching in Rome and wrote his Gospel under the influence of the prince of the apostles. This explains why incidents which involve Peter are described with telling detail (e.g., the great day at Capharnaum, 1:14f)). Little is known of Mark's later life. It is certain that he died a martyr's death as bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. His relics were transferred from Alexandria to Venice, where a worthy tomb was erected in St. Mark's Cathedral.

The Gospel of St. Mark, the shortest of the four, is, above all, a Roman Gospel. It originated in Rome and is addressed to Roman, or shall we say, to Western Christianity. Another high merit is its chronological presentation of the life of Christ. For we should be deeply interested in the historical sequence of the events in our blessed Savior's life.

Furthermore, Mark was a skilled painter of word pictures. With one stroke he frequently enhances a familiar scene, shedding upon it new light. His Gospel is the "Gospel of Peter," for he wrote it under the direction and with the aid of the prince of the apostles. "The Evangelist Mark is represented as a lion because he begins his Gospel in the wilderness, `The voice of one crying in the desert: Make ready the way of the Lord,' or because he presents the Lord as the unconquered King."

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Preaching truth

~by St. Irenaeus from Against Heresies

The Church, which has spread everywhere, even to the ends of the earth, received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. By faith, we believe in one God, the almighty Father who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our salvation. And we believe in the Holy Spirit who through the prophets foretold God’s plan: the coming of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, his birth from the Virgin, his passion, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, and his final coming from heaven in the glory of his Father, to recapitulate all things and to raise all men from the dead, so that, by the decree of his invisible Father, he may make a just judgement in all things and so that every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth to Jesus Christ our Lord and our God, our Saviour and our King, and every tongue confess him.

The Church, spread throughout the whole world, received this preaching and this faith and now preserves it carefully, dwelling as it were in one house. Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice. For though there are different languages, there is but one tradition.

The faith and the tradition of the churches founded in Germany are no different from those founded among the Spanish and the Celts, in the East, in Egypt, in Libya and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world. Just as God’s creature, the sun, is one and the same the world over, so also does the Church’s preaching shine everywhere to enlighten all men who want to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Now of those who speak with authority in the churches, no preacher however forceful will utter anything different – for no one is above the Master – nor will a less forceful preacher diminish what has been handed down. Since our faith is everywhere the same, no one who can say more augments it, nor can anyone who says less diminish it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Fidelis has been called the "protomartyr of the Capuchin Order and of the Propaganda in Rome." He was born in 1577, became a renowned lawyer. But feeling that this profession endangered the salvation of his soul, he decided to join the Capuchin Order and employ his extraordinary gift of eloquence in urging the faithful to lead holy lives and in bringing heretics back to the true faith. An ardent admirer of the founder of his Order, he was a great friend of poverty. Severe with himself, he was most considerate towards others, "embracing them like a mother does her children." When the Austrian army was stricken by plague, he cared for the spiritual and bodily needs of the soldiers in such a manner that he was honored with the title, "Father of the fatherland."

His devotion toward the Mother of God was truly remarkable. Trusting in her intercession and that of other saints, he often begged God for the grace of sacrificing his life in vindication of the Catholic faith. The occasion came when he was appointed to lead the mission for the conversion of Grisons (in Switzerland); heroically he suffered a martyr's death and sanctified with his blood the first-fruits of martyrdom in the Capuchin Order (1622).

~from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

The Eucharist is the Lord's Passover

~by St. Gaudentius of Brescia

One man has died for all, and now in every church in the mystery of bread and wine he heals those for whom he is offered in sacrifice, giving life to those who believe and holiness to those who consecrate the offering. This is the flesh of the Lamb; this is his blood. The bread that came down from heaven declared: The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. It is significant, too, that his blood should be given to us in the form of wine, for his own words in the gospel, I am the true vine, imply clearly enough that whenever wine is offered as a representation of Christ’s passion, it is offered as his blood. This means that it was of Christ that the blessed patriarch Jacob prophesied when he said: He will wash his tunic in wine and his cloak in the blood of the grape. The tunic was our flesh, which Christ was to put on like a garment and which he was to wash in his own blood.

Creator and Lord of all things, whatever their nature, he brought forth bread from the earth and changed it into his own body. Not only had he the power to do this, but he had promised it; and, as he had changed water into wine, he also changed wine into his own blood. It is the Lord’s passover, Scripture tells us, that is, the Lord’s passing. We are no longer to look upon the bread and wine as earthly substances. They have become heavenly, because Christ has passed into them and changed them into his body and blood. What you receive is the body of him who is the heavenly bread, and the blood of him who is the sacred vine; for when he offered his disciples the consecrated bread and wine, he said: This is my body, this is my blood. We have put our trust in him. I urge you to have faith in him; truth can never deceive.

When Christ told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, they were horrified and began to murmur among themselves: This teaching is too hard; who can be expected to listen to it? As I have already told you, thoughts such as these must be banished. The Lord himself used heavenly fire to drive them away by going on to declare: It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.