Saturday, August 26, 2006

Recap of Fr. Foster's Lecture

Iosephus has informed me of a great post on his blog about the lecture given by Fr. Reginald Foster at Notre Dame. After reading his post and am deeply regretting not being in attendance, but one cannot be everywhere at once and after travelling to Rome for the consistory, I am currently on a travel moratorium. Gotta finish paying for Rome.

Here is a tidbit from the post, but you have to head over there to read the rest. It is excellent.

The talk was held in Notre Dame's Law School and the crowd who came to see Reggie was large enough that we had to remove from a lecture hall, of modest size, to the court room, slightly larger, one floor up; even there, there were not enough places for people to sit. My family and I had come all the way from East Lansing; my friend, Iacobus (not the inimitable Iacobus of this blog) came from Iowa City; I talked to a priest who had come from Chicago; I talked to a Chemistry professor who had come over from Valparaiso (my alma mater); and then, of course, there were any number of people from Notre Dame and St. Mary's, etc. Reggie drew quite an audience, though I imagine that, by and large, it was Catholic, if the number of men in clericals was proportionate to the laity in the group.

Read the rest of the post here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Great Monsignor

The New York Daily News printed this article about Msgr. Ganswein yesterday.

Ladies, here's one more man you won't be getting.
The Rev. Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's private secretary, has become the first papal pinup.
Gorgeous Georg, as Gaenswein is often called, has movie-star looks - he has been compared to George Clooney and Hugh Grant - and a charismatic character that's been gaining him many female fans.
The 50-year-old has been called "divinely handsome" by Maria Luisa Agnese, editor of the Italian magazine Corriere. And the former Italian first lady once congratulated the Pope on live television for choosing the Black Forest Adonis.
He has been photographed in tennis shorts and Nike outfits while exercising - he plays soccer, canoes and even flies airplanes. A member of an exclusive ski club in the Austrian Alps, he hits the slopes so gracefully that he has been named honorary ski master of the Courmayeur ski school. The stylish, debonair cleric has even been accused of imparting a few fashion tips to his boss.
"He is young and good-looking and unavailable," says Malena Calzetta, 27, who lives in Milan. "A lot of women want what they can't have. It makes them feel dramatic - like they are in the movies. Plus, he plays tennis. How many people in the church play tennis?"
But while Gaenswein cuts loose during his free time, he's all business on the job. Within the Catholic Church he's known as a staunch conservative, an impressive theologian who adheres strictly to doctrine. He's considered part of a rising German influence within the Vatican that's taken form with Benedict XVI's ascension.

Stress and Work

The past week has been very stressful, so I hope you will all forgive me for my absence. I thought I would follow the Holy Father's advice and retreat for a while.
As usual, it was good advice.

Here is the complete text of his address from last Sunday.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the calendar mentions among the day's saints Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Doctor of the Church who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries (1091-1153). His example and teachings are proving more useful than ever, even in our time.
Having withdrawn from the world after a period of intense inner travail, he was elected abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Clairvaux at age 25, remaining its guide for 38 years until his death. His dedication to silence and contemplation did not prevent him from carrying out intense apostolic activity.
He was also exemplary in his commitment to battle against his impetuous temperament, as well as his humility by which he recognized his own limitations and shortcomings.
The riches and merits of his theology do not lie in having taken new paths, but rather in being able to propose the truths of the faith in a style so clear and incisive that it fascinated those listening and prepared their souls for recollection and prayer. In every one of his writings, one senses the echo of a rich interior experience, which he succeeded in communicating to others with a surprising capacity for persuasion.
For him, love is the greatest strength of the spiritual life. God, who is love, creates man out of love and out of love redeems him. The salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and burdened by personal sins, consists in being firmly attached to divine love which was fully revealed to us in Christ Crucified and Risen.
In his love, God heals our will and our sick understanding, raising them to the highest degree of union with him, that is, to holiness and mystical union. St Bernard deals with this, among other things, in his brief but substantial Liber de Diligendo Deo.
There is then another writing of his that I would like to point out, De Consideratione, addressed to Pope Eugene III. Here, in this very personal book, the dominant theme is the importance of inner recollection - and he tells this to the Pope -, an essential element of piety.
It is necessary, the Saint observes, to beware of the dangers of excessive activity whatever one's condition and office, because, as he said to the Pope of that time and to all Popes, to all of us, many occupations frequently lead to "hardness of heart", "they are none other than suffering of spirit, loss of understanding, dispersion of grace" (II, 3).
This warning applies to every kind of occupation, even those inherent in the government of the Church. In this regard, Bernard addresses provocative words to the Pontiff, a former disciple of his at Clairvaux: "See", he writes, "where these accursed occupations can lead you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... without leaving anything of yourself to yourself" (ibid).
How useful this appeal to the primacy of prayer and contemplation is also for us! May we too be helped to put this into practice in our lives by St Bernard, who knew how to harmonize the monk's aspiration to the solitude and tranquillity of the cloister with the pressing needs of important and complex missions at the service of the Church.
Let us entrust this desire, not easy to find, that is, the equilibrium between interiority and necessary work, to the intercession of Our Lady, whom he loved from childhood with such a tender and filial devotion as to deserve the title: "Marian Doctor". Let us now invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world.
In one of his famous discourses, St Bernard compares Mary to the Star that navigators seek so as not to lose their course: "Whoever you are who perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be drifting in treacherous waters at the mercy of the winds and the waves rather than walking on firm ground, turn your eyes not away from the splendour of this guiding star, unless you wish to be submerged by the storm!... Look at the star, call upon Mary.... With her for a guide, you will never go astray; ...under her protection, you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you will not grow weary; if she shows you favour you will reach the goal (Hom. Super Missus Est, II, 17).
After the Angelus:
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus. In today's Gospel Jesus reveals himself as the Bread of Life, who comes down from Heaven. May our celebration of the Lord's Day be always a time of joyful thanksgiving for the gift of new life in Christ! I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday.
I wish everyone a good Sunday!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Music Quiz

H/T to Kelly for the link.

Rich at A Catholic Dentist has posted a liturgical music quiz. It is worth reading for the comments alone.

Wash Your Hands

H/T to American Papist for this one.

Seen in a local parish office (in the washroom, to be precise):





Photo from Tiffany Trott

It's All About Me

H/T to the Ironic Catholic.

Although this is a spoof, there are real people who would think this is a great idea.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Complete Text of Interview

The Vatican Press Office has released an un-official translation of the Papal interview. Here it is in it's entirety.

Question: Holy Father, your next trip will be to Bavaria. During preparations for the trip your collaborators said you are nostalgic for your homeland. What are the issues you’ll be speaking about during the visit and is the concept of "homeland" one of the values you intend touching on, in particular?
Pope Benedict XVI: Of course. The purpose of the visit is precisely because I want to see again the places where I grew up, the people who touched and shaped my life. I want to thank these people. Naturally I also want to express a message that goes beyond my country, just as my ministry calls me to do. I simply let the liturgical recurrences suggest the themes to me. The basic theme is that we have to rediscover God, not just any God, but the God that has a human face, because when we see Jesus Christ we see God. Starting from this point we must find the way to meet each other in the family, among generations, and then among cultures and peoples as well. We must find the way to reconciliation and to peaceful coexistence in this world, the ways that lead to the future. We won’t find these ways leading to the future if we don’t receive light from above. So I didn’t choose very specific themes, but rather, it is the liturgy that leads me to express the basic message of faith which naturally finds its place in everyday reality where we want to search, above all, for cooperation among peoples and possible ways that can lead us to reconciliation and peace.

Question: As Pope you are responsible for the Church throughout the world. But., clearly, your visit focuses attention on the situation of Catholics in Germany as well. All observers say there’s a positive atmosphere, partly thanks to your election as Pope. But, obviously, the old problems are still around. Just to quote a few examples: fewer churchgoers, fewer baptisms, and especially less Church influence on the life of society. How do you see the present situation of the Catholic Church in Germany?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’d say, first of all, that Germany is part of the West, with its own characteristic colouring obviously, and that in the western world today we are experiencing a wave of new and drastic enlightenment or secularization, whatever you like to call it. It’s become more difficult to believe because the world in which we find ourselves is completely made up of ourselves and God, so to speak, doesn’t appear directly anymore. We don’t drink from the source anymore, but from the vessel which is offered to us already full, and so on. Humanity has rebuilt the world by itself and finding God inside this world has become more difficult. This is not specific to Germany: it’s something that’s valid throughout the world, especially in the west. Then again, today the West is being strongly influenced by other cultures in which the original religious element is very powerful. These cultures are horrified when they experience the West’s coldness towards God. This "presence of the sacred" in other cultures, even if often veiled, touches the western world again, it touches us at the crossroads of so many cultures. The quest for "something bigger" wells up again from the depths of western people and in Germany. We see how in young people there’s the search for something "more", we see how the religious phenomenon is returning, as they say. Even if it’s a search that’s rather indefinite. But with all this the Church is present once more and faith is offered as the answer. I think that this visit, like the visit to Cologne, is an opportunity because we can see that believing is beautiful, that the joy of a huge universal community possesses a transcendental strength, that behind this belief lies something important and that together with the new searching movements there are also new outlets for the faith that lead us from one to the other and that are also positive for society as a whole.

Question: Holy Father. You were in Cologne with the young people exactly a year ago. You experienced how amazingly willing youth are to welcome others and you personally were very warmly welcomed. Will you be brining a special message for young people on this next trip?
Pope Benedict XVI: First of all, I’d say that I am very happy there are young people who want to be together, you want to be together in faith and who want to do something good. The tendency to do good is very strong in young people, just think of the many kinds of volunteer work they do. The commitment of offering your own personal contribution to help the needy of this world is a great thing. One idea might be to encourage them in this sphere: Go ahead! Look for opportunities to do good! The world needs this desire to do good, it needs this commitment! Then another message might be this: the courage to make definitive decisions! Young people are very generous but when they face the risk of a life-long commitment, be it marriage or a priestly vocation, they are afraid. The world is moving dramatically: nowadays I can continually do whatever I want with my life with all its unpredictable future events. By making a definitive decision am I myself not tying up my personal freedom and depriving myself of freedom of movement? Reawaken the courage to make definitive decisions: they are really the only ones that allow us to grow, to move ahead and to reach something great in life. They are the only decisions that do not destroy our freedom but offer to point us in the right direction. Risk making this leap, so to speak, towards the definitive and so embrace life fully: this is something I’d be happy to communicate to them.

Question: Holy Father, a question about the situation regarding foreign politics. Hopes for peace in the Middle East have been dwindling over the past weeks: What do you see as the Holy See’s role in relationship to the present situation? What positive influences can you have on the situation, on developments in the Middle East?
Pope Benedict XVI: Of course we have no political influence and we don’t want any political power. But we do want to appeal to all Christians and to all those who feel touched by the words of the Holy See, to help mobilize all the forces that recognize how war is the worst solution for all sides. It brings no good to anyone, not even to the apparent victors. We understand this very well in Europe, after the two world wars. Everyone needs peace. There’s a strong Christian community in Lebanon, there are Christians among the Arabs, there are Christians in Israel. Christians throughout the world are committed to helping these countries that are dear to all of us. There are moral forces at work that are ready to help people understand how the only solution is for all of us to live together. These are the forces we want to mobilize: it’s up to politicians to find a way to let this happen as soon as possible and, especially, to make it last.

Question: As Bishop of Rome you are the successor of St Peter. How can the ministry of Peter manifest itself fittingly in today’s world? And how do you see the tensions and equilibrium between the primacy of the Pope, on one hand, and the collegiality of the Bishops, on the other?
Pope Benedict XVI: Of course there is a relationship of tension and equilibrium and, we say, that’s the way it has to be. Multiplicity and unity must always find their reciprocal rapport and this relationship must insert itself in ever new ways into the changing situations in the world. We have a new polyphony of cultures nowadays in which Europe is no longer the determining factor. Christians on the various continents are starting to have their own importance, their own charateristics. We must keep learning about this fusion of the different components. We’ve developed various instruments to help us: the so-called "ad limina visits" of the Bishops, which have always taken place. Now they are used much more in order to speak sincerely with all the offices of the Holy See and with me. I speak personally to each Bishop. I’ve already spoken to nearly all the Bishops of Africa and with many of the Bishops from Asia. Now it’s the turn of Central Europe, Germany, Switzerland. In these encounters in which the Centre and the Periphery come together in an open exchange of views, I think that the correct reciprocal exchange in this balanced tension grows. We also have other instruments like the Synod, the Consistory, which I shall be holding regularly and which I would like to develop. Without having a long agenda we can discuss current problems together and look for solutions. Everyone knows that the Pope is not an absolute monarch but that he has to personify, you might say, the totality that comes together to listen to Christ. There’s a strong awareness that we need a unifying figure that can guarantee independence from political powers and that Christians don’t identify too much with nationalism. There’s an awareness of the need for a higher and broader figure that can create unity in the dynamic integration of all parties and that can embrace and promote multiplicity. So I believe there’s a close bond between the petrine ministry which is expressed in the desire to develop it further so that it responds both to the Lord’s will and to the needs of the times.

Question: As the land of the Reformation, Germany is especially marked by the relationships between the different religious confessions. Ecumenical relations is a sensitive area that constantly encounters new problems. What chances do you see of improving relations with the Evangelical Church or what difficulties do you foresee in this relationship?
Pope Benedict XVI: Maybe it’s important to say, first of all, that there are marked differences within the Evangelical Church. If I’m not mistaken, in Germany we have three important communities: Lutherans, Reformed, and Prussian Union. There are also several free Churches (Freikirchen) and within the traditional Churches there are movements like the "confessional Church", and so on. It’s a collection of many voices, therefore, with which we have to enter in dialogue searching for unity while respecting the multiplicity of the voices with which we want to collaborate. I believe that the first thing we need to do is to concern ourselves with clarifying, establishing and putting into practice important ethical directives in society, thus guaranteeing a social ethical consistency without which society cannot fulfil its political ends, namely, justice for all, living together in a positive way, and peace. In this sense, I think a lot is already achieved, that we already agree on the common Christian basics before the great moral challenges. Of course, then we have to witness to God in a world that has problems finding Him, as we said, and to make God visible in the human face of Jesus Christ, to offer people access to the source without which our morale becomes sterile and loses its point of reference, to give joy as well because we are not alone in this world. Only in this way joy is born before the greatness of humanity: humanity is not an evolutionary product that turned out badly. We are the image of God. We have to move on these two levels, so to speak: the level of important ethical points of reference and the level that manifests the presence of God, a concrete God, starting from within and working towards them. If we do this and, especially, if in all our single communities we try not to live the faith in a specific fashion but always start from its deepest basics, then maybe we still won’t reach external manifestations of unity quickly, but we will mature towards an interior unity that, God willing, one day will bring with it an exterior form of unity too.

Question: The issue of the family. A month ago you were in Valencia for the World Meeting of Families. Anyone who was listening carefully, as we tried to do at Vatican Radio, noticed how you never mentioned the words "homosexual marriage", you never spoke about abortion, or about contraception. Careful observers thought that was very interesting. Clearly your idea is to go around the world preaching the faith rather than as an "apostle of morality". What are your comments?
Pope Benedict XVI: Obviously, yes. Actually I should say I had only two opportunities to speak for twenty minutes. And when you have so little time you can’t say everything you want to say about "no". Firstly you have to know what we really want, right? Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option. It’s very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We’ve heard so much about what is not allowed that now it’s time to say: we have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and it’s in this way that marriage develops, first of all, as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then the family, that guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet. So, firstly it’s important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we don’t want something. I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it’s not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. As far as abortion is concerned, it’s part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: "You shall not kill!". We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother’s womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. The human person must always be respected as a human person. But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way.

Question: Holy Father, my question is linked to that of Fr Von Gemmingen. Throughout the world believers are waiting for the Catholic Church to answer the most urgent global problems, like AIDS and overpopulation. Why does the Catholic Church pay so much attention to moral issues rather than suggesting concrete solutions to these problems that are so crucial to humanity, in Africa, for example?
Pope Benedict XVI: So that’s the problem: do we really pay so much attention to moral issues? I think – I am more and more convinced after my conversations with the African Bishops – that the basic question, if we want to move ahead in this field, is about education, formation. Progress becomes true progress only if it serves the human person and if the human person grows: not only in terms of his or her technical power, but also in his or her moral awareness. I believe that the real problem of our historical moment lies in the imbalance between the incredibly fast growth of our technical power and that of our moral capacity, which has not grown in proportion. That’s why the formation of the human person is the true recipe, the key to it all, I would say, and this is what the Church proposes. Briefly speaking, this formation has a dual dimension: of course we have to learn, acquire knowledge, ability, know-how, as they say. In this sense Europe, and in the last decades America, have done a lot, and that’s important But if we only teach know-how, if we only teach how to build and to use machines, and how to use contraceptives, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves facing wars and AIDS epidemics. Because we need two dimensions: simultaneously we need the formation of the heart, if I can express myself in this way, with which the human person acquires points of reference and learns how to use the techniques correctly. And that’s what we try to do. Throughout Africa and in many countries on Asia, we have a vast network of every level of school where people can learn, form a true conscience and acquire professional ability which gives them autonomy and freedom. But in these schools we try to communicate more than know-how, rather to form human beings capable of reconciliation, who know that we must build and not destroy and who have the necessary references to be able to live together. In much of Africa, relations between Christians and Muslims are exemplary. The Bishops have formed common commissions together with the Muslims to try and create peace in situations of conflict. This schools network, dedicated to human learning and formation, is very important. It’s completed by a network of hospitals and assistance centres that reach even the most remote villages. In many areas, following the destruction of war, the Church is the only structure that remains intact. This is a fact! We offer treatment, treatment to AIDS victims too, and we offer education, helping to establish good relationships with others. So I think we should correct that image that sees the Church as spreading severe "no’s". We work a lot in Africa so that the various dimensions of formation can be integrated and so that it become possible to overcome violence and epidemics, that include malaria and tuberculosis as well.

Question: Holy Father, Christianity has spread around the world starting from Europe. Now many people think that the future of the Church is to be found in other continents. Is that true? Or, in other words, what is the future of Christianity in Europe, where it looks like it’s being reduced to the private affair of a minority?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’d like to introduce a few subtleties. It’s true, as we know, that Christianity began in the Near East. And for as long time its main development continued there. Then it spread in Asia, much more than what we think today after the changes brought about by Islam. Precisely for this reason its axis moved noticeably towards the West and Europe. Europe – we’re proud and pleased to say so – further developed Christianity in its broader intellectual and cultural dimensions. But I think it’s important to remind ourselves about the Eastern Christians because there’s the present danger of them emigrating, these Christians who have always been an important minority living in a fruitful relationship with the surrounding reality. There’s a great danger that these places where Christianity had its origins will be left without Christians. I think we need to help them a lot so that they can stay. But getting back to your question: Europe definitely became the centre of Christianity and its missionary movement. Today, other continents and other cultures play with equal importance in the concert of world history. In this way the number of voices in the Church grows, and this is a good thing. It’s good that different temperaments can express themselves, the special gifts of Africa, Asia and America, Latin America in particular. Of course, they are all touched not only by the word of Christianity, but by the secular message of this world that carries to other continents the disruptive forces we have already experienced. All the Bishops from different parts of the world say: we still need Europe, even if Europe is only a part of a greater whole. We still carry the responsibility that come from our experiences, from the science and technology that was developed here, from our liturgical experience, to our traditions, the ecumenical experiences we have accumulated: all this is very important for the other continents too. So it’s important that today we don’t give up, feeling sorry for ourselves and saying: "Look at us, we just a minority, let’s at least try and preserve our small number!". We have to keep our dynamism alive, open relationships of exchange, so that new strength for us comes from there. Today there are Indian and African priests in Europe, even in Canada, where many African priests work in a very interesting way. There’s this reciprocal give and take. But if we receive more in future we also need to continue giving with courage and with growing dynamism.

Question: This is a subject that’s already been touched partially, Holy Father. When it comes to important political or scientific decisions, modern society doesn’t base itself on Christian values and the Church, according to research, is considered as simply a warning voice or a controlling voice. Shouldn’t the Church come out of this defensive position and assume a more positive attitude with regard to the building of the future?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’d say that, in any case, we have to stress better what we want that is positive. And we need to do this, above all, in dialogue with cultures and religions because, as I think I’ve already said, the African continent, the African spirit and the Asian spirit too, are horrified by the coldness of our rationality. It’s important for them to see that’s not all we are. On the other hand, it’s important that our secular world comes to understand that the Christian faith is not an impediment but a bridge for dialogue with other worlds. It’s not right to think that a purely rational culture has an easier approach to other religions just because it’s tolerant. To a large extent what’s missing is a "religious centre-piece" which can act as point of departure and arrival for those who want to enter into a relationship. That’s why we must, and we can, show that, precisely because of the new intercultural environment in which we live, pure rationality separated from God is insufficient. We need a wider rationality that sees God in harmony with reason and is aware that the Christian faith that developed in Europe is also a means to bring together reason and culture and to integrate them with action in a single and comprehensive vision. In this sense I believe we have an important task, namely to show that this Word which we possess, isn’t part of the trash of history, so to speak, but it’s necessary today.

Question: Holy Father, let’s talk about your travels. You live in the Vatican and maybe it hurts you to be far from people and separated from the world, even in the beautiful surroundings of Castelgandolfo. You’ll be turning 80 soon. Do you think that, with God’s grace, you’ll be able to make many more trips? Do you have any idea of where you’d like to go? To the Holy Land, or Brazil? Do you know already?
Pope Benedict XVI: To tell the truth I’m not that lonely. Of course there are, you may say, the walls that make it more difficult to get in, but there’s also a "pontifical family", lots of visitors every day, especially when I’m in Rome. The Bishops come and other people, there are State visits. There are also personalities who want to talk to me personally, and not just about political issues. In this sense there are all kinds of encounters that, thank God, I have continually. And it’s also important that the seat of the Successor of Peter be a place of encounter, don’t you think? From the time of John XXIII onwards the pendulum began to swing in the other direction too: the popes started going out to visit others. I have to say that I’ve never felt strong enough to plan many long trips. But where such a trip allows me to communicate a message or where, shall I say, it’s in response to a sincere request, I’d like to go – in the "measure" that’s possible for me. Some are already planned: next year there’s the meeting of CELAM, the Latin American Episcopal Council, in Brazil, and I think that being there is an important step in the context of what Latin America is living so intensely , to strengthen the hope that’s so alive in that part of the world. Then I’d like to visit the Holy Land, and I hope to visit it in a time of peace. For the rest, we’ll see what Providence has in store for me.

Question: Allow me to insist. Austrians also speak German and they are waiting for you at Mariazell...
Pope Benedict XVI: Yes, it’s been agreed. Quite simply I promised them, a little imprudently. I really liked that place and I said: Yes, I’ll come back to the Magna Mater Austriae. Of course, this became a promise that I will keep, that I will keep happily.

Question: I insist further. I admire you every Wednesday when you hold your General Audience. 50,000 people come. It must be very tiring. How do you manage to hold out?
Pope Benedict XVI: Yes, the Good Lord gives me the necessary strength. When you see the warm welcome, you’re obviously encouraged.

Question: Holy Father, you’ve just said you made a rather imprudent promise. Does that mean that, despite your ministry, despite the many protocols and limitations, you haven’t lost your spontaneity?
Pope Benedict XVI: I try, in any case. As much as things are fixed, I’d like to keep doing some things that are purely personal.

Question: Holy Father, women are very active in many different areas of the Catholic Church. Shouldn’t their contribution become more clearly visible, even in positions of higher responsibility in the Church?
Pope Benedict XVI: We reflect a lot about this subject, of course. As you know, we believe that our faith and the constitution of the college of the Apostles, obliges us and doesn’t allow us to confer priestly ordination on women. But we shouldn’t think either that the only role one can have in the Church is that of being a priest. There are lots of tasks and functions in the history of the Church. Starting with the sisters of the Fathers of the Church , up to the middle ages when great women played fundamental roles, up until modern times. Think about Hildegard of Bingen who protested strongly before the Bishops and the Pope, of Catherine of Siena and Brigit of Sweden. In our own time too women, and we with them, must look for their right place, so to speak. Today they are very present in the departments of the Holy See. But there’s a juridical problem: according to Canon Law the power to take legally binding decisions is limited to Sacred Orders. So there are limitations from this point of view but I believe that women themselves, with their energy and strength, with their superiority, with what I’d call their "spiritual power", will know how to make their own space. And we will have to try and listen to God so as not to stand in their way but, on the contrary, to rejoice when the female element achieves the fully effective place in the Church best suited to her, starting with the Mother of God and with Mary Magdalen.

Question: Holy Father, recently there’s been talk of a new fascination with Catholicism. What is the attraction and the future of this ancient institution?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’d say that the entire pontificate of John Paul II drew people’s attention and brought them together. What happened at the time of his death remains something historically very special: how hundreds of thousands of people flowed towards St Peter’s Square in an orderly fashion, stood for hours, and while they should have collapsed, they resisted as if moved by an inner strength. Then we relived the experience on the occasion of the inauguration of my pontificate and again in Cologne. It’s very beautiful when the experience of community becomes an experience of faith at the same time. When the experience of community doesn’t happen just anywhere but that this experience becomes more alive and gives to Catholicism its luminous intensity right there in the places of the faith. Of course, this has to continue in everyday life. The two must go together. On one hand, the great moments during which one feels how good it is to be there, that the Lord is present and that we form a great community reconciled beyond all boundaries. From here we get the impetus to resist during the tiring pilgrimage of everyday existence, to live starting from these bright points and turning towards them, knowing how to invite others to join our pilgrim community. I’d like to take this opportunity to say: I blush when I think of all the preparations that are made for my visit, for everything that people do. My house was freshly painted, a professional school redid the fence. The evangelical professor helped to do the fence. And these are just small details but they’re a sign of the many things that are done. I find all of this extraordinary, and I don’t think it’s for me, but rather a sign of wanting to be part of this faith community and to serve one another. Demonstrating this solidarity means letting ourselves be inspired by the Lord. It’s something that touches me and I’d like to express my gratitude with all my heart.

Question: Holy Father, You spoke about the experience of community. You’ll be coming to Germany for the second time following your election. After the World Youth Day and, for different reasons, after the World Football Championships, the atmosphere seems to have changed. The impression is that Germans have become more open to the world, more tolerant and more joyful. What would you still like from us Germans?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’d say that from the end of the Second World War German society began an inner transformation. The German way of thinking too, which was further reinforced after reunification. We have become more deeply part of world society and, naturally, we have been changed by its mentality. Aspects of the German character which others weren’t aware of before, have come to light Perhaps we were always depicted too much as always very disciplined and reserved, which has some basis in truth. But if we now see better that which everyone is seeing, I think it’s lovely: Germans aren’t just reserved, punctual and disciplined, they are also spontaneous, happy and hospitable. This is very lovely. This is my hope: that these virtues may continue to grow and that they may last and may receive added impetus from the Christian faith.

Question: Holy Father, your predecessor beatified and canonized a huge number of Christians. Some people say even too many. This is my question: beatifications and canonizations only bring something new to the Church when these people are seen as true models. Germany produces relatively few saints and blessed in comparison with other countries. Can anything be done to develop this pastoral sphere so that beatifications and canonizations can give real pastoral fruit?
Pope Benedict XVI: In the beginning I also thought that the large number of beatifications was almost overwhelming and that perhaps we needed to be more selective; choosing figures that entered our consciousness more clearly. Meanwhile, I decentralized the beatifications in order to make these figures more visible in the specific places they came from. Perhaps a saint from Guatemala doesn’t interest us in Germany and vice versa, someone from Altotting is of no interest in Los Angeles, and so on, right? I also think that this decentralization is more in keeping with the collegiality of the episcopate, with its collegial structures, and that it’s suitable for stressing how different countries have their own personalities and these are especially effective in these countries. I’ve also seen how these beatifications in different places touch vast numbers of people and that people say: "At last, this one is one of us!". They pray to him and are inspired. The blessed soul belongs to them and we’re happy there are lots of them. And if, gradually, with the development of a global society, we too get to know them, that’s wonderful. But it’s especially important that multiplicity exists in this field also because it’s important that we too in Germany get to know our own figures and are happy for them. Besides this issue there’s that of the canonization of greater figures who are examples for the whole Church. I’d say that the individual Episcopal Conferences ought to choose, ought to decide what’s best for them, what this person is saying to us, and they should give visibility to people who leave a profound impression, but not too many of them. They can do it through catechesis, preaching, or through the presentation of a film, perhaps. I can imagine some wonderful films. Of course, I only know well the Church Fathers: a film about Augustine, or one on Gregory Nazianzen who was very special, how he continually fled the ever greater responsibilities he was given, and so on. We need to study: there are not only the awful situations we depict in many of our films, there are also wonderful historical figures who are not at all boring and who are very contemporary. We must try not to overload people too much but to give visibility to many figures who are topical and inspirational.

Question: Stories with humour in them too? In 1989 in Munich you were given the Karl Valentin Orden Award. What role does humour play in the life of a Pope?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’m not a man who constantly thinks up jokes. But I think it’s very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically. I’d also say it’s necessary for my ministry. A writer once said that angels can fly because they don’t take themselves too seriously. Maybe we could also fly a bit if we didn’t think we were so important.

Question: When you have an important job like yours, Holy Father, you are much observed. Other people talk about you. I was reading and I was struck by what many observers say: that Pope Benedict is different from Cardinal Ratzinger. How do you see yourself, if I may be so bold as to ask?
Pope Benedict XVI: I’ve been taken apart various times: in my first phase as professor and in the intermediate phase, during my first phase as Cardinal and in the successive phase. Now comes a new division. Of course circumstances and situations and even people influence you because you take on different responsibilities. Let’s say that my basic personality and even my basic vision have grown, but in everything that is essential I have remained identical. I’m happy that certain aspects that weren’t noticed at first are now coming into the open.

Question: Would you say that you like what you do, that it isn’t a burden for you?
Pope Benedict XVI: That would be saying a bit too much, because it really is tiring. But in any case, I try to find joy here too.

Conclusion: In the name of my colleagues, I’d like to thank you sincerely for this conversation, for this "world first". We’re looking forward to your upcoming visit to Germany, Bavaria. Goodbye

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pope Benedict Speaks to the Media

The text of the Holy Father's interview with the German media is available here.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Gemmingen: The issue of the family. A month ago you were in Valencia for the World Meeting of Families. Anyone who was listening carefully, as we tried to do at Radio Vatican, noticed how you never mentioned the words "homosexual marriage," you never spoke about abortion, or about contraception. Careful observers thought that was very interesting. Clearly your idea is to go around the world preaching the faith rather than as an "apostle of morality." What are your comments?

Obviously, yes. Actually I should say I had only two opportunities to speak for 20 minutes. And when you have so little time you can't say everything you want to say about "no." Firstly you have to know what we really want, right? Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today.
We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and it's in this way that marriage develops, first of all, as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then the family, that guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet. So, firstly it's important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we don't want something. I believe we
need to see and reflect on the fact that it's not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. As far as abortion is concerned, it's part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: "Thou shalt not kill!" We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother's womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. The human person must always be respected as a human person. But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way.

Gemmingen: Let's talk about your travels. You live in the Vatican and maybe it hurts you to be far from people and separated from the world, even in the beautiful surroundings of Castelgandolfo. You'll be turning 80 soon. Do you think that, with God's grace, you'll be able to make many more trips? Do you have any idea of where you'd like to go? To the Holy Land, or Brazil? Do you know already?

To tell the truth I'm not that lonely. Of course there are, you may say, the walls that make it more difficult to get in, but there's also a "pontifical family," lots of visitors every day, especially when I'm in Rome. The bishops come and other people, there are state visits. There are also personalities who want to talk to me personally, and not just about political issues. In this sense there are all kinds of encounters that, thank God, I have continually. And it's also important that the seat of the successor of Peter be a place of encounter, don't you think? From the time of John XXIII onwards, the pendulum began to swing in the other direction too: the popes started going out to visit others. I have to say that I've never felt strong enough to plan many long trips. But where such a trip allows me to communicate a message or where, shall I say, it's in response to a sincere request, I'd like to go -- in the "measure" that's possible for me. Some are already planned: next year there's the meeting of CELAM, the Latin American Episcopal Council, in Brazil, and I think that being there is an important step in the context of what Latin America is living so intensely, to strengthen the hope that's so alive in that part of the world. Then I'd like to visit the Holy Land, and I hope to visit it in a time of peace. For the rest, we'll see what Providence has in store for me.

Before the Electric Fan

This is a video of a pipe organ with hand pumped bellows from Castromocho, Spain. In this age where pipe organs are a rare enough find, this is extraordinary. I would love to know how many of these still exist.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fr. Foster to Speak at Notre Dame

Fr. Reginald Foster, the Pope's Latinist and Vatican Radio's "Latin Lover" will be speaking at the University of Notre Dame on August 24th.

Here are the details:

Is Latin Really Dead?
Why the Academy and the Church Should Preserve the Latin Language

An informal conversation with
Reginald Foster, O.C.D.
Department of Latin Letters
Secretariat of State
The Vatican

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2006
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: Notre Dame Law School, Room 120

For more information on Fr. Foster, read this site.

How I wish I could go!

Friday, August 11, 2006

More Offenses Than Meets the Eye

Ed Peters, a canon lawyer has posted a great article on the various offenses committed by the Poncho Ladies™.
It seems there are more excommunicatable offenses than meets the eye.

Read it here.

Why Are Vocations Declining?

The National Catholic Register has an article about the declining numbers of women entering religious life.

In the article, there is one striking line, “So often I’ve heard women say, ‘I could do what some religious are doing [and stay] at home.’”

I think that is precisely what many women are thinking. I know that is what I thought when I was considering religious life. There was only one order that really attracted me. Since I recieved no support from either clergy or family I abandoned discernment and focused on lay ministry.

Texas Cathedral Becomes a Basilica

On Tuesday, St. Anthony Cathedral in Beaumont was granted Minor Basilica status by Pope Benedict XVI, an honor shared by a small number of churches across the U.S. Bishop Curtis Guillory announced that, "This is an honor and a blessing, not only for our Catholics, but also for all the people of Southeast Texas.”

In conferring this special status, the Vatican recognizes the artistic and historical significance of the cathedral, as well as the importance it plays in the liturgical and pastoral ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont.

"This beautiful designation links us even more closely to the Chair of Peter. Basilica comes from a Greek word meaning 'hall of the King'. This is the place where our King and Savior, Christ, is worshipped," explained Bishop Guillory.

Dedicated in 1907 and renovated and restored in 2004, St. Anthony’s is an historic attraction for the city and a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.

The new status will give the cathedral the responsibility of celebrating, with greater solemnity, certain Church feast days such as the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It will also be able to add the papal coat of arms to its artwork and sacred images.

According to the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper, following an announcement at noontime Mass on Tuesday, St. Anthony’s Monsignor Richard DiStefano said that despite the new title, the parish’s character will remain the same. "It doesn't matter if we are a parish, a cathedral or a basilica," he told the congregation. "We have to never lose focus on who we are worshiping and that is the Lord Jesus."

Bishop Guillory called the act, “an affirmation by the Holy Father of the deep faith of the people of Southeast Texas.”

The diocese is beginning to set plans for a special celebration of the new status, though no date has been set. The cathedral will be the fourth Catholic basilica in Texas and one of more than 50 in the United States.

See more pictures of the beautiful church here. Personally, I love the inscription on the facade of the church.

Story: CNA
Photos: Cathedral Website

Reasons To Be Catholic

The Ironic Catholic has posted the first installment of the top 100 reasons to be Catholic.

Here are my favorites:

100. Christian Initiation is more involved than just signing into the membership book at the church office.

99. When someone decides to use glitter rather than ashes on Ash Wednesday (God bless them)...there are consequences

Check out the glitter link if you truly want to be sickened.

Elvis Brings Spiritual Wholeness

A cathedral (Anglican) shook up its Sunday evening worship with a pioneering Elvis Presley night that attracted 900 people.
Some of the congregation wore T-shirts paying tribute to "the King", clutched programmes with Elvis's face on them and sang and clapped throughout the 75-minute service, which was led by an impersonator, Johnny Cowling.
Truro Cathedral, which moved its traditional evensong to 4.30pm last Sunday to make way for worship led by the impersonator, says it now wants to become even more adventurous because ordinary services "do not connect with people".
(And all this time I thought worship was about connecting with God)

Colin Reid, a spokesman for the cathedral, said: "The Elvis evening was a rip-roaring success. (Rip roaring and anything regarding church, doesn't belong in the same sentence unless it is a church carnival) "Elvis" sang a series of gospel songs and in between the head of worship, Canon Perran Gay, reflected on the significance of the lyrics.
"Everyone loved it. There were many people there who never normally darken the doors of a church or a cathedral. That was the point." (Yep, and they will never come again unless you can top the last "performance" because they came for the show, not for worship)
However, the cathedral, which has also conducted Sunday evening worship through country and western music, jazz and poetry, has a problem - how do you follow Elvis? (Ahhh, so they do get part of it)
Mr Reid said: "The Elvis event far exceeded expectations and dwarfed attendance for the jazz and country and western, but the question is where do you go from here? You can't beat Elvis." (I suggest trying God! Yep, God can beat Elvis, but I guess a God impersonator wouldn't work. In the Catholic Church where God is physically present 24 hours a day. He never leaves the building.)
He added: "This seemed to really work, so we are going for something more adventurous, which does not include music. The plans are still being considered." (More adventerous? I don't want to know.)
Future services could include film, meditation and meals, he said.
Kay Greenway, one of many parishioners who filled in forms afterwards giving their reaction, wrote: "I have been a church-goer all my life but I felt more spiritual wholeness in the past few hours than I have felt for a long time. Thank you." (Spiritual wholeness? From an Elvis impersonator?)
Sue Martin, from Newquay, wrote: "I enjoyed everything about the service and the way it was conducted. It has left me uplifted and happy." (Happy clappy...err what would you call it with Elvis?)
The experiment was not without its critics, however. Some traditionalists complained that the cathedral was dumbing down.

Read more here and here

Cardinal McCarrick on Lebanon

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrived in Lebanon in early August, visiting Catholic aid projects, church and government leaders and getting what he described as "a lesson in frustration."

His Aug. 10 meeting with two Muslim leaders in Beirut was canceled after Israeli planes dropped leaflets on the city warning of new bombardments.

"It scares the heck out of people," he said of the leaflet drops. "And if they don't leave, they can be killed. But it's awful; they get word to leave their homes because they are going to bomb in the next hours.

"In an Aug. 10 telephone interview from Beirut, the cardinal said his visit was meant to be a sign of solidarity with the suffering people of Lebanon, the same kind of visit he has made in the past to Israel in the wake of terrorist attacks.

"I have concerns for the poor people of Lebanon. I'm not making any judgments on what political things are happening, but I know that even now there are people in some villages that are totally blocked off by the war and they have no bread, they have no water and they have no medicine. And that has been going on for almost two weeks," the cardinal told Catholic News Service.

"If that continues, it will be a disaster. We will be starving people," he said.

"I am not a politician, not a statesman and not a general. I can't blame anybody, but I want to say, 'Here is what I find,' and the world must do something," he said.

Cardinal McCarrick arrived in Beirut from Amman, Jordan, Aug. 9 aboard a Jordanian transport plane carrying humanitarian aid. He expected to leave Lebanon the same way Aug. 13.

The cardinal met Aug. 10 with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other government officials. He said they were courteous, explained the situation in the country and expressed their hopes for a cease-fire.

"They feel they have done what everybody has asked them to do. They are willing to send 15,000 Lebanese soldiers" into southern Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia are deployed, firing rockets and mortars into Israel.

"But apparently, that is not enough," he said.

A U.N. resolution on an immediate cease-fire faced delays as Security Council members disagreed over when Israeli troops should be asked to withdraw from southern Lebanon and when an international peacekeeping force should be deployed.

"You come here and get a lesson in frustration," the cardinal said.

Cardinal McCarrick visited several schools Aug. 9, meeting with the displaced people being sheltered in them and with the staff and volunteers of Caritas Lebanon, which is running the shelters and providing food, clothing, blankets and medical assistance.

The Salma Sayyegh public school, which he visited, has been turned into a shelter for 360 Muslims -- mostly women and children -- who have fled the fighting and bombardment of their homes in southern Lebanon.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, is supporting the work of Caritas Lebanon at Salma Sayyegh and throughout the country.In addition to financial support, CRS has sent staff members experienced in the logistical side of emergency relief to assist with security, warehousing, medical care and media relations, among other things.

"Everything is difficult to get here because the bridges have been knocked down and many of the roads have been bombed so trucks can't travel, so the whole food distribution system is in peril," Cardinal McCarrick said.

Most people in Lebanon, he said, "are becoming more and more anti-Israeli," including the Christians, who also have been forced to flee. "It's a very desperate situation."

"Lebanon has the largest Christian population in the Middle East and we're losing that," he said. "The people are going to leave because they cannot work. There is no gas for the cars; there isn't food to eat. We don't know how they are going to open the schools.

"It's frustration that one feels here. They say to me, 'Thank you for coming,' but my visit is not much more than saying, 'We love you and we are praying for you and we understand your suffering,'" the cardinal said.

Cardinal McCarrick said he also wanted to let the Lebanese people know "that together with the Holy Father, we Catholics in the United States are calling for an immediate cease-fire and for corridors of safety so humanitarian goods like food and water can be delivered."

Source CNS

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Indian Priest Dies Assisting Police

He was on his way to Meghraj where he was appointed new parish priest July 1. But little did he know death was stalking him en route. Father S.G. Prakash of Gandhinagar Archdiocese, who was asked by the local police to help them catch a suspicious-looking Maruti car that sped past a check-post, died instantly after crashing his Qualis jeep into a roadside tree at 10.30 p.m., August 5, on Modasa-Megharaj Road.
Eyewitnesses said that at the check-post on Modasa-Meghraj Road, the police and his companion Father Glacius Raj was called out for questioning flagged Father Prakash’s jeep down. Meanwhile, a Maruti car sped past without stopping at the check-post. Suspecting something to be amiss, two police officers jumped into Prakash’s jeep requesting him to give a chase to the fleeing car.
“Raj, I am coming back,” shouted Father Prakash to his companion and he chased the Maruti going in the direction of Modasa in Sabarkant district. Within seven kilometres, he caught up with the Maruti and its driver seemed to give way for the Qualis to overtake. But as Father Prakash tried to overtake the car, it swerved to the right pushing Father Prakash’s Qualis out of the tarred road. The priest lost control and smashed the jeep into a roadside tree. He died instantly of serious head injuries as he was thrown out of the vehicle.
The Maruti driver and a co-passenger took a country road to escape the police, but their car got stuck in sand. The duo abandoned the vehicle and made themselves scarce under the cover of darkness. The police discovered that the car, with a Rajasthan State registration, was carrying Indian-made foreign liquour.
A diocesan seminarian and two policemen travelling in the Qualis jeep escaped with minor injuries. A police jeep had also followed the chase. By the time the police brought Father Prakash to the check-post and to the Civil Hospital at Modasa, he was declared: “brought dead”.
More than a thousand people attended Father Prakash’s funeral Mass in the Cathedral Church at Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat State. The funeral service was led by Jesuit Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes of Gandhinagar and Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad Diocese as well as more than 150 priests from the two dioceses.
Forty-two-year-old Father Prakash had worked in different parishes and mission stations in Ahmedabad Diocese after his priestly ordination in 1993. Then he opted to serve in the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar which was erected in November 2002.
Father Prakash was an efficient priest with many talents, especially in music and audio-visual communication. He was specially chosen to be the first diocesan parish priest of Meghraj mission parish when the archdiocese took over the parish on July 1 from the Jesuits who had started the mission in 1980. The parish has school one to ten standards, a convent and separate hostels for boys and girls.
In the funeral, Bishop Macwan said Father Prakash had sacrificed his life for the country, as he gave a hot chase to the errant Maruti car at the request of the police officers of the Gujarat State

Cardinal McCarrick in Lebanon

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is in Lebanon on behalf of the American bishops to express solidarity with the Lebanese people and to assess, from close at hand, possible ways of helping them as they endure Israeli air raids and a displacement crisis.

Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, yesterday landed by helicopter in Beirut airport, where he was welcomed by the Vatican Nuncio Mgr Luigi Gatti and Mgr Roland Abou Jaude, the delegate of the Assembly of Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon. He immediately went to visit the Shiite neighbourhood of Nabha that was destroyed by Israeli air raids and later he went to the headquarters of Caritas Lebanon. In a meeting with Fr Louis Samara, chairman of that body, he gave assurance of the concern and support of the American bishops for the people of Lebanon.

In the afternoon, Cardinal McCarrick went to Dimane, the summer seat of the patriarchate, where he met Cardinal Sfeir for more than an hour and a half.
AsiaNews sources revealed that in the dialogue, Cardinal McCarrick expressed his condemnation as well as that of all the American bishops for the violence that has destroyed Lebanon. Patriarch Sfeir gave him a dossier about the country situation.

A visit by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President Emeritus of Justice and Peace, is scheduled for next week. The visit of the French cardinal will be of a more official nature. He will meet not only Catholic bishops but also the highest-ranking state officials: President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Source: Asia News

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Todays Papal Audience

Pope Benedict held his usual general audience today in the Pope Paul VI audience hall. As a side note, no tickets will be issued for Wednesday audiences held during August.

Citing Paul VI and John Paul II, Benedict XVI today renewed his appeal for peace in the Middle East at the end of his weekly catechesis held in Paul VI Hall. “Dear brothers and sisters,” said the pope, “my mind, full of concern, is turned once again to the beloved region of the Middle East. With reference to the tragic ongoing conflict, I put forward again the words of Pope Paul VI to the UN in October 1965: ‘No longer one against the other, no longer, ever! ... If you want to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands.’ In the face of efforts under way to finally reach a ceasefire and a just and lasting solution to the conflict, I repeat, together with my immediate predecessor John Paul II, that it is possible to change the course of events when reason, goodwill and faith in the other prevail, as well as the implementation of commitments assumed, and cooperation between responsible partners (cfr Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January 2003). To all, I renew my exhortation to intensify prayer to obtain the desired gift of peace.”

Benedict XVI arrived from his
summer residence of Castel Gandolfo by helicopter. In Paul VI Hall, packed with pilgrims from all over the world, the pontiff continued his analysis of the figures of the apostles, dedicating today’s teaching to the contents of John’s writings, the gospel and the letter, of which “the characteristic topic... is love”. He said: “It is not by chance that I wanted to start my first encyclical letter with the words of this Apostle: ‘God is love’ (Deus caritas est); those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 Jn 4:16). It is very difficult to find such writings in other religions. And so such expressions bring us face to face with a fact that is truly unique to Christianity.”

Starting out not from “an abstract treatment, but from a real
experience of love, with direct and concrete reference, that may even be verified, to real people”, John highlights the components of Christian love that the pope summed up in three points. The pontiff said: “The first regards the very Source of love that the Apostle places in God, reaching the point where he affirms that ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8,16). John is the only writer of the New Testament who gives us definitions of God. He says, for example, that ‘God is Spirit’ (Jn 4:24) or that ‘God is light’ (1 Jn 1:5). Here he proclaims with striking intuition that ‘God is love’. Take note: this is not a simple affirmation that ‘God loves’, still less is it that ‘love is God’! In other words: John does not limit himself to describing divine conduct, he goes right to its roots. Further, he does not intend to attribute a divine quality to a
generic, perhaps impersonal love; he does not rise from love to God, but he turns directly to God to define his nature with the infinite dimension of love. By this, John wants to say that the essential constituent of God is love and hence all the activities of God are born from love and are stamped with love: everything God does, he does for love and with love.”

The second point, continued the pope, is that God, in his love, “did not limit himself to verbal statements, but he truly committed himself and he ‘paid’ himself. As John in fact writes, ‘God so loved the world (that is, all of us) that he gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16). Now, the love of God for mankind is concretized and manifested in the love of Jesus himself. Once again, it is John who writes: Jesus, ‘having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end’ (Jn 13:1). In virtue of this sacrificial and total love, we are all radically saved from sin, as the Apostle writes once again: ‘My little children... if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 Jn 2:1-2; cfr 1 Jn 1:7). This is how far the love of Jesus went for us: until the shedding of his own blood for oursalvation! The Christian, pausing in contemplation before this “excess” of love, cannot but ask himself what a dutiful response would be.”

The third moment of the “dynamic of love” is that in which “as receptive recipients of a love that precedes and overpowers
us, we are called to a commitment of active response, which to be adequate can only be an answer of love. John talks about a ‘commandment’. He refers in fact to these words of Jesus: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ (Jn 13:34). Where is the novelty that Jesus is referring to? It lies in the fact that he was not content to repeat what had already been asked in the Old Testament and which we read in the other Gospels too: ‘Love your neighbour asyourself’ (Lev. 19:18; cfr Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:29-31; Lk 10:27). In the old precept, the normative criterion was inferred by man (‘as yourself’), while in the precept mentioned by John, Jesus presents himself as the motive and norm of our love. And this is how love becomes truly Christian: in the sense that it must be addressed towards everyone without distinction and especially in as much as it reaches the extent of extreme consequence, not having any other measure than being without measure. These words of Jesus, ‘as I have loved you’, invite us and unnerve us at the same time; they are a Christological goal that may appear unreachable, but at the same time they are a stimulus that does not allow us to stop and rest on what we have been able to achieve.”

Vanity of Vanities

H/T to Gerald for this article.

The London Daily Mail has an article about, Susan Barrington, who is traveling to get umbilical stem cells injected into her body in an attempt to look younger. While she is getting umbilical stem cells, others are having embryonic stem cells injected into their bodies.

In addition to Susan's story, the paper also describes similar procedures at other clinics.

Here, The Mail names clinics at the forefront of this disturbing new beauty craze and reveals what really goes on.
Destination: Barbados:

The Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The Treatment: Anti-ageing stem-cell injections made from aborted foetal tissue, £15,000 The past 12 months have seen this popular holiday resort become the stem-cell capital of the developed world, treating hundreds of patients in a year.

The upmarket clinic opened last year in one of the island's most luxurious hotels - Villa Nova - after Ukrainian stem-cell researchers, who have been secretly pioneering stem-cell studies with aborted human foetuses for 20 years, teamed up with U.S. investors backed by the Caribbean tourist industry.

The aim was to attract wealthy British and American stem-cell tourists for treatment, avoiding the strict ethical barriers to such treatment enforced in Europe and America. The clinic is so busy it has a waiting list of more than 1,000 patients for cosmetic treatments and has treated dozens of British women. The promise: The clinic claims that the foetal tissue derived from elective abortions at six to 12 weeks is rich in regenerative stem cells. 'We inject the cells taken from the liver tissue of human foetuses directly into the vein in the back of your hand,' explains the well-spoken English consultant Jenny, who gives telephone consultations to potential patients.

'The results are incredible. You'll feel and look different after a month because these cells help the body to regenerate itself. The effects last for approximately a year before it needs to be "topped up'''.

Despite criticism from Church leaders and religious groups on the Island, Barnett Suskind, chief executive of IRM, is unapologetic about the treatment he carries out. 'It is the most natural form of healing there is - in ten years, everyone will be doing this,' he says. 'You think better, sleep better, and look better. Your quality of life improves and your libido certainly improves.'

The reality:
'The science behind the treatments on offer at IRM is based on the theory that stem cells from aborted foetuses may search out damaged and dead cells in the body and work to repair and replace them,'
says Dr Stephen Minger, director of stem cell biology at King's College, London.

'But what this clinic is doing raises serious issues. For a start, it is not regulated by any medical board and there is no documented evidence or controlled clinical trials to back up their claims. More worryingly, there is no proof that the tissue is obtained from truly elective abortions rather than financially induced ones.

'Research shows that they openly import foetuses from poverty-stricken provinces in Ukraine and Russia, preying on the financially desperate to treat vain Western women.'

To paraphrase those beautiful words of Blessed Mother Teresa, It is a true poverty that a child must die in order for you to look they way you want.

Read the article here.

Addition to Worst Song List

I also want add to my nominations for the worst song award "All I Ask of You" by the Weston Priory.

What liturgists in their right mind think that is liturgical music? Oops, it's in the hymnal, so I guess they do exist.

Where is God in that song? I guess one could argue that we are asking God remember us as loving Him, or it could be God asking us to remember that He loves us, but that is quite a stretch.

"All I Ask of You" is a sappy, sugar dripping song that has no place in the Mass, but somehow I keep getting asked to play it for funerals. It can be guaranteed that at a funeral the song is not percieved as either spoken to God or spoken by God. The song is particularly inappropriate for funerals because it takes the focus off of God and his saving love and places it on the deceased's relationship with his survivors. The song is a tearjerker and nothing more. Funeral music is supposed to comfort the family and and help reinforce the belief in eternal life.

A Catholic funeral is not a celebration of a person's life, it is a celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection, through which we all gain the hope of eternal life. While we give thanks to God, for the gift of our brother or sister, the focus of the Mass must always remain on God. During the Mass we pray for the deceased and ask God to welcome him into Heaven. As it says in the Order of Christian Funerals, we believe that life is changed, not ended.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Worst Liturgical Music Selections

The summer is finally here for me (no classes in August) so I have been out and about enjoying the weather and my wonderful family. My posting will probably be sporadic until September.

This weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about terrible music.

At this current moment I nominate for the worst liturgical music award:

1) "I Myself Am the Bread of Life" (I am not the Bread of Life. I can't even come close. That song, I can't bring myself to call it a hymn, is full of some of the worst Eucharistic theology I have ever seen. The thought of it being played at Mass is painful.)

2) "Lord of Glory" by Tim Manion (Currently my almost 2 yr old's favorite song ever. He found it on a CD in my collection and demands it be played over and over. I think the fact that it is a hit with the toddler set should be proof enough of it's qualifications for this award. I think could be the Communion song for the Cowboy Mass)

Post your nominations in the comment section. Awards will be presented next Monday.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dangers of Prenatal Testing

Fr. Tad Pacholczyk has written another excellent article

"Each year, more and more prenatal technologies become available to pregnant women that allow them to test whether their children will be affected by certain diseases. Approximately 450 conditions can currently be diagnosed in utero by testing fetal cells, often through chorionic villus sampling (early in the pregnancy) or through amniocentesis (later in the pregnancy). Based on some pending technologies, this number may soon skyrocket to nearly 6000 diseases. Such powerful medical tools raise some serious concerns: are prenatal testing results rapidly becoming the equivalent of death sentences for children in the womb? Prenatal testing does have its valid uses and applications, but the temptation to misuse it is a serious one, so the decision to carry out such testing must be made very carefully, and within in a limited set of circumstances.Kaiser Permanente, a large managed health care organization, offered a disturbing statistic regarding prenatal testing in a 2004 New York Times article. When their members in northern California tested their unborn children for cystic fibrosis, some of them tested positive. Of those parents who received a positive test result, a full 95 percent terminated their pregnancies. When couples learn they have a child affected by Down's Syndrome, the figure is comparable."

"When medical professionals advocate prenatal testing, the profession subtly communicates a message that there may be certain lives that are not worth living. This quiet 'conspiracy of eugenics' is beginning to reach to all levels of society, affecting even Catholics and others of a strongly pro-life persuasion. As Dr. John Larsen of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center put it in the same Times article: 'People will come into my office in tears and say they've been against abortion their whole lives, but they'll make an exception for themselves [when their baby is affected].'"

"Prenatal testing is permissible, indeed desirable, when done with the intention of providing early medical intervention to the child. For example, the life-threatening disease known as Krabbe's leukodystrophy can be successfully treated by a bone marrow transplant shortly after birth. If a diagnosis of the disease is made by prenatal testing, the family can initiate the search for a matched bone marrow sample even before the child is born. That way, valuable time can be saved, and the early intervention improves the likelihood of a good outcome. Certain other diseases like spina bifida can be treated by doing microsurgery on the baby while still inside the womb. Prenatal testing which aims to provide diagnostic information to assist in the treatment of an in utero patient represents a morally praiseworthy use of this powerful technology."

When I refused many of the "routine" prenatal tests, my doctors acted as though I was crazy. I was infuriated when during an ultrasound a minor marker for Down Syndrome was found and I was told that I now had a decision to make. What decision did I have? In the end, the "marker" wasn't a sign of anything. I felt that I was being pushed to make a decision that I wasn't going to make.

Read the complete article here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Archbishop Montalvo 1930-2006

Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera passed away in Rome at 11:10 last night, at the age of 76.
The archbishop, who served as papal nuncio to the United States for seven years, died at a hospice operated by the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Archbishop Montalvo during several of his vists to to Massachusetts as well at several other times. He led a fascinating life and I believe he was a great asset to the Church. It was a honor to know him.

His funeral Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica by Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State.

May the Angels lead you into paradise, may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the Holy City, the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Correction: I originally identified the religious order who cared for the Archbishop as the Sisters of Mercy. That was incorrect. He was actually cared for by the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma.
Thanks to Koz for making me aware of the error.

The Three Things That Last

In reading the coverage of Francis Cardinal George's surgery, I came across a quote that made me stop and think. The quote from the Chicago Tribune said,

"Before that surgery, the cardinal and other priests recited their daily prayers. Wearing a hospital gown instead of a collar, he carried no medals or rosaries into the operating room."

"'This is a man who is being treated for cancer, and from the outside observer he would look like any other patient,' said Colleen Dolan, communications director for the archdiocese, who joined the priests in George's hospital room for the morning ritual. 'The trappings were gone, and there was just a person with great faith.'"

It made me think about a topic I have addressed on this blog before... Success.

What exactly do people expect from the cardinal. Is there anyone who really expected Cardinal George to enter surgery wearing his simar, zuchetto, and covered in rosaries and medals?

In the end, no matter one's social status or position in life, the day will come when all the trappings will be gone. When that day comes, what will be left? St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that only faith, hope and love remain.

Micah 6:8 tells us that the Lord requires us "Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Wow, nothing there about amassing a fortune or getting your face on the front page of People. There isn't even anything there about being the best in your chosen career.

Why not? Because that isn't what life is all about.

What is success? In our modern culture, the culture of death, success is being rich or famous and to be both is even more desirable. We even have people who are famous for being rich. Is that really success?

It doesn't matter if we are cardinals, doctors, sanitation workers, teacher, bus drivers, or burger flippers. We are called to do our jobs to the best of our abilities because that is our service to humanity, but more importantly we are to do them as we are to do everything...with great love.

The cardinal doesn't have a edge on sanctity over the burger flipper. Even ecclesiastical positions and honors do not necessarily equate success. I know many holy bishops and none of them will tell you they have the Christian life "sewn up". In the end, they are men who said yes to the call of God. They answered the call not only to the priesthood, but also the the episcopate and they continue to respond to that call each day. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders they are given the gifts and graces they need to do the impossible. Those gifts do not make their ministry easy, they make it possible. What the bishop does with those gifts is up to him.

So what is real success?

It is more important to be successful for eternity than to be successful on earth. Remember, we are one earth for a short time, we are in heaven or hell forever.

In the end what matters is that when all the trappings are gone, there remains a person with great faith in God, who loves God and neighbor and hopes in God. When one possesses faith, hope and charity, he will desire to model himself after Christ and therefore will do what it right, love goodness and walk humbly with God.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I've been Memed

Thanks to Brian for my first meme.

1. One book that changed your life
The Ratzinger Report changed my life because it marked a turning point in my view of the Church and the Liturgy. I still remember reading the words, "The Church is not our Church, which we could dispose of as we please. She is rather His Church." That chapter resonated with me unlike anything I had read for a long time. I read that chapter (pg 48-49) over and over again for many days. I was a member of the "gap generation" who was taught all the cutsie Catholic catch phrases. You know the ones I mean, "Jesus is our brother" "We are the Church" "It's only a sin if you think it is". All those things drove me wild when I was a kid and I told off many CCD teachers and more than one priest because of them. When I read that chapter, I felt like everything suddenly made sense. I hadn't been a stupid little kid all those years ago...I had been RIGHT!

2. One book that you've read more than once
That would have to be Anne of Green Gables. I loved that book as a child and I don't know why.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island
That would have to be my Portuguese Hymnal. I love singing those songs, both the old and the new. "Queremos Deus, homens ingratos...."

4. One book that made you laugh
Hmmm, that would have to be Bless Me Father by Peter DeRosa. At the time I was reading it, I was working at a parish that the parish in the novel could have very well be modeled after. The priests could have been modeled after the pastor and curate as well. I am sure there are some who would find it offensive, but I still think it is hilarious.

5. One book that made me cry
Angels & Demons. Yeah, I know. @@ I still think some of the characters in the book were superficially modeled after real Church officials.

6. One book you wish had been written
Learn Latin in Three Easy Steps. I am tired of searching for the books I need for an essay or term paper and then finding out that the college library only has them in Latin. :::mental note...take Latin A.S.A.P.:::

7. One book you wish had never been written
Why Believe: Foundations of Catholic Theology by Eileen Flynn. That is a textbook which is full of errors, infidelity to the Magesterium and all around poor theology. I wonder when Eileen Flynn is going to join the Poncho Ladies™

8. One book you're currently reading
The Pope's Army, by Robert Royal. I had to stop reading for a few weeks in order to finish the semester, but I plan on picking it up again on Friday.

9. One book you've been meaning to read
Big Russ and Me, by Tim Russert. Normally it's not a book that would interest me, but I have known Sr. Lucy, who was Tim's 7th grade teacher, for many years and she tells me she is featured in the book.

Now, who to meme? I choose...
Kelly, Fr. Dennis.

A Beast of Burden for the Lord

As I was walking across campus today in the burning heat, carrying probably more than 20 lbs of books in my backpack, my notebook computer in my right hand and another 15 lbs of books in a bag in hy left hand, I couldn't help but think of the Bear of Corbinian.

The Bear of Corbinian is prominently displayed on Pope Benedict's coat of arms. The legend tells us that Bishop Corbinian was travelling from Bavaria to Rome in the 8th century and came across a bear. He commanded the bear to carry his pack and the bear obeyed. Upon arrival he released the bear from service and it returned home.

Pope Benedict once said that he chose the image for his coat of arms because he is a beast of burden for the Lord. I imagine that one of his first experiences with being a beast of burden must have been in college. Just think, those were the days before the internet.

As I walked across campus with a backpack and tote bag full of theological texts, I couldn't think of anything else except that at that moment I was literally a beast of burden for the Lord. My term paper was due today and I did finish and submit it. It didn't turn out as good as I had hoped it would, but it is ok.

The summer semester comes to an end on Thursday. I plan on enjoying my all too short vacation and returning to school in the fall.

Lord, I am studying to know You more completely, to love You more and to serve You and your Church better. I know You told me to take up my cross and follow You, I just didn't know one of my crosses would be in the shape of a backpack.