Monday, October 29, 2007

The Papal Paper Trail

A couple statements worthy of note have recently slipped out from behind the Vatican walls....

First, to mark the close of his first year as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy -- the dicastery also chiefly responsible for catechesis -- Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM released a message to the catechists of the world on the feast of St Luke.
I want to express my admiration for your often untiring ecclesial service in the area of the transmission of Catholic faith to so many catechumens and those entrusted to you who have been already baptized.

I assure you of my affection, as my dearest brothers and sisters, committed to the good fight of faith, which often requires heroic sacrifices, to which, nonetheless, you respond with joy and perseverance.

In daily faithfulness to God and man, you continue to be and represent a real asset for your parish communities. You are one of the most promising signs with which the Lord endlessly comforts and surprises us.

In a dedicated fashion and with passion, seek to acquire and exhibit that image, which is required of teachers, educators and witnesses of the truth, by faithfully passing on that truth to contemporary man, in all of its fullness and integrity.

Be able to strengthen your faith, “always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" (1 Peter 3:15), with prayer, with continuing education, with charity. Be always joyful and zealous so that, also through your work, "in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion" (1 Peter 4:11).

I urge you to pray and cultivate with trust a relationship of love, devotion, attentiveness and silence with the Lord.

In a world which is often hopeless, in the grip of violence and selfishness, let every gesture, every smile, every word of yours be a living testimony that the Lord is victorious over sin and death, and that love is possible!...

Reveal the face of Christ to all those you meet, through the grace and faithfulness of your service.

May the Spirit of the Lord render your life new and make communion among you grow.

“May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world” ("Evangelii Nuntiandi," 80).
And on Friday, receiving the bishops of Gabon at the close of their ad limina visit, the Pope's final speech underscored the importance of engaging the young in the life of the church, and some other pointed observations:
The Holy Father noted that the people of Gabon "sometimes let themselves be attracted by the consumerist permissive society, paying less attention to the poorest people of their country. I encourage them to increase fraternal sentiment and solidarity. Furthermore, a certain relaxation has been noted in the lives of Christians, taken in by the attractions of the world. It is my hope that their conduct become ever more exemplary in terms of spiritual and moral values."

Benedict XVI identified one of the most vital tasks of the Church in Gabon as "transmitting the faith and acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Christian mystery. In order to meet the challenges they face, the faithful need a thorough formation that enables them to found their Christian life upon clear principles."

"Ecclesial communities will be more vibrant and the faithful will draw strength from the liturgy and from individual, family and community prayer, so that, in all fields of social life, they become witnesses of the Good News and workers for reconciliation, justice and peace in this world of ours which needs these things more than ever," he said....

The Pope emphasized the role of youth in Gabon, expressing the hope that the young may become "the first evangelizers of their peers. Many times, through friendship and sharing, people come to discover the person of Christ and to join themselves to him."

After noting the bishops' concern about the low numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the Holy Father noted that "the seminary in Libreville must be watched over with particular care because the future of evangelization and of the Church are at stake." This, he said, "will not cease to be a stimulus so that, in each diocese, pastoral care of vocations develops and intensifies."...

With reference to priests, the Pope stressed that, "living in constant intimacy with Christ, they will have a sharper awareness of the need to remain faithful to the commitments made before God and the Church, especially [...] chastity and celibacy. In this way, they will experience their priestly ministry ever more as a service to the faithful."
Oh, and the music-loving pontiff was treated to another classical concert over the weekend -- again courtesy of his native Bavarian Radio Symphony.

The program: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The papal post-program speech: a plug for hope...
Beethoven's "Ninth" is one of the best-known compositions of Western music and was written when the composer was almost completely deaf. Its finale, "Ode to Joy," uses soloists, chorus and orchestra.

The pope said he was increasingly amazed at the work, which was Beethoven's last complete symphony, written after years of self-isolation.

"Beethoven had to fight internal and external problems that brought him depression and deep bitterness and threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity," the pope said.

Then, in 1824, Beethoven surprised the public with "a composition that broke the traditional form of the symphony" and elevated it to an expression of joy and optimism, he said.

The pope said the careful listener can follow this drama in the music itself, as it progresses from the dark tones and famous "empty fifths" of the strings at the beginning of the overture to an explosion of jubilation at the end.

The sense of joy that emerges from the music is "not something light and superficial, but a sentiment acquired through much work, overcoming the emptiness of someone who had been pushed into isolation by deafness," the pope said.
That joyful optimism is, of course, the topic of B16's forthcoming second encyclical.