Friday, December 31, 2010

At Year's End, a Song of Praise

As the civil calendar turns the page to a New Year, the ancient tradition of Holy Church on its Eve calls its own to lift up the great song of thanksgiving, the Te Deum.

Ergo, with thanks for the blessings of the year ebbing away, and in hope of renewed grace for the one just ahead, church, let's do it:


From the Premier See to the City of Angels, Britain to Burke -- and, as ever, well beyond in every direction -- 2010's especially been one to remember on the beat, and here's to even more in 2011.

On a side-note, the year-end Te Deum is a double "thanks" of these pages -- last week saw six years since the day when an idea popped into this scribe's head... and, a lot of everything later, here we are.

One day down the line, what happened in between would make for a wild book. For now, though, to all of you who've made this place part of your days and kept the party going through the gift of your presence, no words could ever say enough or sufficient thanks; even when your narrator's hands can't keep up, you're in my thoughts, prayers and heart every hour of the day, and if you could, as you've got a chance sometime these next days, please send up a good word for me, this work and the road ahead.

To one and all, your loved ones and those you serve, every joy, gift and blessing in the New Year and ever beyond... and lastly, as the morrow's praise and thanksgiving sound somewhat different in the place that birthed these pages, we'd be remiss to pass through the Gate of the Year without a taste of this River City's most ecclesial of folk Traditions, which steps off early tomorrow for the 111th time:

Banjos, backpieces, glockenspiels and all, even on a non-obligatory holyday, the 22nd edition of the Mummers' Mass begins at 4 o'clock. And as ever, it'll be packed.

Again, a blessed, joyous and Happy New Year to you and yours. More on the other side... and for all of it, as always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: Just in case anyone's Vigil proved a downer, no worries -- we've got something for that.

Live from the spiritual heart of Mummerdom -- indeed, the very sanctuary where your narrator made his Sacraments -- a taste of (post-)liturgical dance, Pharaohtown style...

...and just outside its doors, the after-Mass Sacred Music:

And, well, just another of Ed Hallinan's great gifts to God's people keeping on... even if, as ever, he couldn't get the coverage to make it back himself.

What a blessing to be of this place.

PHOTO: Getty


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Digging Out... and Suiting Up

So, East Coasters, how's your dig-out comin'?

(Six weeks 'til pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater.... Six weeks -- 45 Days. And it can't come soon enough.)

Mega-storm aside, wherever you're at on this Fifth Day of Christmas, hope you're keeping safe and warm and, above all, getting to take it easy. In that spirit, as the happiest thing about the foot-plus of the white stuff that covered the coast over the weekend was its heralding of the best part of the season -- Advent preps now behind, beat slowed to a crawl, sunlight starting to hang around a bit longer by the day -- barring anything earth-shaking, don't expect too much to roll here until the Roman scene revs back to life in early January with the Pope's traditional "State of the World" speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

It's been a blessing of a year, folks, but just as much, a very full (more like wild) one, with little time to breathe amid the cycles. So amid the joy of these days -- the easy, peaceful, beautiful, actual Christmas, something we often seem to have all to ourselves -- here's hoping you'll get to soak up everything you've been looking for, above all the close comfort of the Bambino's choicest gifts: the people and moments that make life rich, joyful and good all the year 'round.

As ever, much more could be said, but as the syntax-meter's feeling a tad on the fritz after a long fall, best to let it wait. In the meanwhile, to one and all, blessings on your Octave... oh, and as the business of a certain Strut looms just ahead 'round these parts, well, it's never to early to start the march toward Broad:

For those who know, no explanation's needed... and for those who don't, none will ever suffice. And in that, it's much like faith itself.

God love you lot forever -- Merry Christmas and hope all's great on your end.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Live from Capitol Hill: Christmas with The Cardinal

Keeping up what's become a Christmas tradition over his half-decade in the nation's capital, earlier today saw Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl return to Chris Wallace's table on Fox News Sunday.

(For the record, his predecessor's tradition -- both on this day and many others -- was Meet the Press.)

Along the way, the freshly-elevated DC prelate (shown above at yesterday's traditional meal for some 1,500 of the capital's lonely and poverty-stricken at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) fielded questions on civility (or lack thereof) in the public discourse, the new evangelization (and his Yuletide "invite home" to inactive Catholics), the state of Catholicism on these shores, last month's Consistory... and, perhaps most newsworthily of all, became the highest-ranking Stateside cleric to talk up the church's position on last week's repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in uniform.

Here, the full 10-minute chat... points North, meanwhile, in further proof that the first-ever New York presidency of the US bishops will, even on its quieter days, still be omnipresent-plus, no less than Politico published a Christmas message -- a call to serve the neediest -- from the new Chief, Himself:
This great country, which calls itself “Judeo-Christian,” recognizes the divine in those who are poor, struggling or left out — those for whom there is “no room in the inn.” Pope Benedict XVI explains, “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: In the least of the brethren we find Jesus, and in Jesus we find God.”

This Christian moral imperative flows from the prophets of Israel, who measured a righteous society not by income or power but by how the widow, orphan and alien were treated. This solicitude for the poor echoes among our Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu neighbors, as well as those of goodwill who do not profess a belief in God.

This beautiful season’s warm sense of sharing and charity brings out the best in us. Our churches and service organizations are in overdrive. The outpouring of compassion, food for the hungry and gifts for those in need is essential. But, soberly, still not nearly enough. Those who gaze in awe on the cave of Bethlehem also sense an obligation to make our nation more just, our economy more fair, our world more at peace.

At this time of economic turmoil, the poor too often seem to be missing from our national conversation and decisions. The poor reflect the face of the divine; the poor have a name. They are our neighbors, our fellow citizens. The poor, Dorothy Day noted are not “cases” but our cousins....

The baby denied a bed at Bethlehem had a name, Jesus. Our poor have a name, and we cannot fail to find a place for them. Pope John Paul II, when he opened this millennium, reminded us, “The poor are not objects to be treated but agents of their own development.”

The legendary health care genius in St. Louis, Sister Isidore Lennon, would fuss at the admissions office. “We need to ask their names before we ask them what’s wrong,” she said, “we look in their eyes before we look at their insurance ID.”

So this Christmas I ask that we put the poor first. Every program or policy, every budget, tax or deficit proposal, must be assessed as to how it affects the life and innate human dignity of those who have no room at the inn. Their voices may be hoarse, and often shy, but their moral claims upon a nation boasting of “liberty and justice for all” are compelling.
A lá B16, the President spent his Christmas lunching with some 400 guests at a Bronx soup-kitchen that shares the facilities of a parochial school.

And lastly for now, the bench's newly-installed Southeastern "anchor" observed his first Christmas back home making an equally-pointed gesture to highlight the church's "preferential option" -- in Miami (above), Archbishop Tom Wenski marked the Incarnation by recalling the Bambino's journey into Egypt for 150 undocumented immigrants, celebrating an "emotional," tri-lingual Mass (English, Spanish, Kreyole) for the group at the South Florida detention center where they're currently being held.

As the Holy Family fled the persecution of Herod, "we are sure Joseph was not delayed trying to obtain a visa to cross the border,'' Wenski said in his homily.

"That is why we can say that Jesus was an undocumented immigrant.... Christ was an illegal immigrant. He was a refugee."

PHOTO: Melinda Mara/The Washington Post; Daniel Sone/
The Florida Catholic


"Love Is the Force That Changes the World": The Pope's Christmas Lunch... with Rome's Poor

To mark the 100th birthday of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta -- and keeping with this pontificate's preference for acts of concrete charity at Christmas -- earlier today B16 hosted a lunch for some 500 of Rome's neediest served by the shelters and kitchens of the Missionaries of Charity, the Indian-based community founded by the universally-beloved Nobel Peace laureate, the "Saint of the Gutters."

Held in the packed atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall -- the same spot where the Pope recently hosted lunches for the delegates to October's Synod of Bishops and, last month, the College of Cardinals -- likewise present with the throng were Mother Teresa's successor at the MC's helm, Sr Mary Prema, and Fr Sebastian, the superior of the order's community of men.

Of the large group, fourteen guests of the shelters joined the pontiff at the head table. To the whole room, however, Benedict delivered the following remarks, here below in a house English translation.

* * *
Dear friends,

I'm very happy to be here today with you, and I extend warm greetings to the Reverend Mother-General of the Missionaries of Charity, to the priests, sisters, contemplative brothers and and all of you here to enjoy this brotherly moment together.

The light of the Lord's Birth fills our hearts with the joy and peace announced by the Angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those whom he loves." The Baby that we see in the manger is God himself who made himself man, to show us how much he desires our good, how much he loves us: God has become one of us, that he might make himself close to each of us, that he might conquer evil, liberate us from sin, give us hope, that he might tell us that we are never alone. We can always look to Him without fear, calling Him Father, sure that in every moment, in every situation of life, even the most difficult ones, He never forgets us. May we say ever more often: Yes, God himself takes care of me, he loves me, Jesus was born for me, too; I must trust in him always.

Dear brothers and sisters, clinging to the light of the Baby Jesus, of the Son of God made man, illuminates our lives to transform them in light, which we see especially in the lives of the saints. I think of the witness of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, a reflection of the light of the love of God. To celebrate a hundred years since her birth is cause for gratitude and for reflection, that we might have a renewed and joyous charge toward the service of the Lord and our brothers and sisters, especially the neediest among us. As we know, the Lord himself wanted to be needy. Dear Sisters, Priests and Brothers, dear friends, love is the force that changes the world, because God is love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta lived love for everyone without distinction, but with a preference for the poorest and most abandoned: a luminous sign of the fatherhood and the goodness of God. She knew to recognize in each person the face of Christ, who she loved with her whole self: the Christ who she loved and received in the Eucharist she continued to find in the streets and pathways of the city, becoming living "images" of Jesus who crosses over the wounds of man with the grace of his merciful love. Whoever asks why Mother Teresa became so famous, the answer is simple: because she lived in a humble, hidden way, for love and in love of God. She herself affirmed that her greatest prize was to love Jesus and serve him in the poor. Her tiny figure, whether with her hands joined together or embracing a sick person, a leper, the dying, a child, is the visible sign of an existence transformed by God. Amid the night of human suffering, she became resplendent in the light of divine Love and helped so many hearts find the peace only God can give.

Let us thank the Lord, that in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we all have seen how our existence can change when it encounters Jesus; it can become for others a reflection of the light of God. To many men and women, in situations of sorrow and suffering, she gave consolation and the certainty that God doesn't abandon anyone, ever! Her mission continues among many, here and in other parts of the world, who live her charism of being missionaries and missionaries of Charity. Our thanks to you is great, dear Sisters, dear Brothers, for your humble, discreet, almost hidden presence in the eyes of men, but extraordinary and precious to the heart of God. To man often in search of happy, fleeting illusions, your witness of life says where true joy is found: in sharing, in giving, in loving with the same generosity of God that destroys the logic of human selfishness.

Dear friends! Know that the Pope loves you, carries you in his heart, brings you all close in a fatherly embrace and prays for you. Every wish for a Merry Christmas! Thank you for wanting to share the joy of these feast days with me. I call upon the maternal protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth who we celebrate today -- Jesus, Mary and Joseph -- and I bless all of you and your dear ones.

PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano


Saturday, December 25, 2010

"Say No Longer 'Something is Missing'"

Live from the "nation's parish," fullaudio of the Christmas Midnight homily of the shepherd of the "Capital of the World" -- and now, of course, the elected Chief of the Stateside episcopate -- Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York:


Friday, December 24, 2010

Natus Est....

In the wonder of the incarnation
your eternal Word has brought
to the eyes of faith

a new and radiant vision of your glory.

In him we see our God made visible

and so are caught up in love
of the God we cannot see....
* * *
To one and all -- those you love, those you serve and, above all, those most in need of the Light of this Holy Night; those who long for the rest of us to bring it to them, that we might all rejoice together in its gladness and none be left behind in darkness -- every wish for a beautiful, Blessed and Merry Christmas, and that, in every way, its riches and gifts will overflow for you and yours into the New Year and well beyond.

While we're at it, eternal thanks to this readership -- always and everywhere, the soul, heart, lifeblood and backbone of these pages -- for the constant gifts of goodness, spirit, selfless witness and, indeed, ceaseless surprises that fill every day with the joys and emotions of this Night and make this work a daily grace and lifetime's blessing to keep at... or, at least, try to.

Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis....

Christus Natus Est -- venite adoremus!

Buon Natale a tutti --
Merry Christmas to all... God love you forever!


"The King Embodies Hope"

25 DECEMBER 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
“You are my son, this day I have begotten you” – with this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel. The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the “Son of God” through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being. The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulder” (Is 9:6). Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God’s personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace. On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This child is truly born of God. It is God’s eternal Word that unites humanity with divinity. To this child belong those titles of honour which Isaiah’s coronation song attributes to him: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Yes, this king does not need counsellors drawn from the wise of this world. He bears in himself God’s wisdom and God’s counsel. In the weakness of infancy, he is the mighty God and he shows us God’s own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world.

Truly, the words of Israel’s coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words. In all of them, those words about divine sonship, about installation into the heritage of the peoples, about making the ends of the earth their possession (Ps 2:8) were only pointers towards what was to come – as it were signposts of hope indicating a future that at that moment was still beyond comprehension. Thus the fulfilment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. It is greater in the sense that this child is truly the Son of God, truly “God from God, light from light, begotten not made, of one being with the Father”. The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. God has not only bent down, as we read in the Psalms; he has truly “come down”, he has come into the world, he has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to himself. This child is truly Emmanuel – God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth. He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God’s own peace. This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might. This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the “rod of his oppressor” is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the “garment rolled in blood” (Is 9:4f) still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God’s closeness. We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfil the prophecy that “of peace there will be no end” (Is 9:7). We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world – the “kingdom of righteousness, love and peace”.

“Mary gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7). In this sentence Saint Luke recounts quite soberly the great event to which the prophecies from Israel’s history had pointed. Luke calls the child the “first-born”. In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, “first-born” does not mean the first of a series of children. The word “first-born” is a title of honour, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow or not. So Israel is designated by God in the Book of Exodus (4:22) as “my first-born Son”, and this expresses Israel’s election, its singular dignity, the particular love of God the Father. The early Church knew that in Jesus this saying had acquired a new depth, that the promises made to Israel were summed up in him. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus “the first-born”, simply in order to designate him as the Son sent into the world by God (cf. 1:5-7) after the ground had been prepared by Old Testament prophecy. The first-born belongs to God in a special way – and therefore he had to be handed over to God in a special way – as in many religions – and he had to be ransomed through a vicarious sacrifice, as Saint Luke recounts in the episode of the Presentation in the Temple. The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice. In Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In his person he brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. Saint Paul amplified and deepened the idea of Jesus as first-born in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians: Jesus, we read in these letters, is the first-born of all creation – the true prototype of man, according to which God formed the human creature. Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man. Furthermore, as these letters tell us, he is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection he has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God. Finally, it is said to us that he is the first-born of many brothers. Yes indeed, now he really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood – not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus, but the new brotherhood in which we are God’s own family. This new family of God begins at the moment when Mary wraps her first-born in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger. Let us pray to him: Lord Jesus, who wanted to be born as the first of many brothers and sisters, grant us the grace of true brotherhood. Help us to become like you. Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family.

At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14). The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God’s glory – “we praise you for your glory”. We praise you for the beauty, for the greatness, for the goodness of God, which becomes visible to us this night. The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve. God’s glory, from which all beauty derives, causes us to break out in astonishment and joy. Anyone who catches a glimpse of God experiences joy, and on this night we see something of his light. But the angels’ message on that holy night also spoke of men: “Peace among men with whom he is pleased”. The Latin translation of the angels’ song that we use in the liturgy, taken from Saint Jerome, is slightly different: “peace to men of good will”. The expression “men of good will” has become an important part of the Church’s vocabulary in recent decades. But which is the correct translation? We must read both texts together; only in this way do we truly understand the angels’ song. It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if he had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels’ message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son. God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth.

Saint Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk 2:13f.). But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God’s heavenly glory. So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God. Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves. Thus, down the centuries, the angels’ song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love. At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory. We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen.



The 25th day of December, the 19th of the Moon:

Countless centuries past from the creation of the world,
when, in the beginning,
God created the heavens and the earth
and formed man in his own image;

Likewise many ages since after the Flood,
when the Most High extended the rainbow across the heavens
as the sign of his Covenant and of peace;

In the 21st century since the migration of Abraham, our father in faith,
from Ur of the Chaldeans;
the 13th century after the exodus of Israel from Egypt, led by Moses,
roughly a millennium from the anointing of David as King;

In the 65th week, as prophesied by Daniel,
the 194th Olympiad,
the 752nd year of the foundation of the City of Rome,
the 42nd year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being at peace:

the eternal God,
eternal Son of the Father,
seeking to consecrate the world by coming into it;
conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having followed since his conception,
in Bethlehem of Judea
was born of the Virgin Mary
and became man.

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.


"God is Always Faithful": With Christmas "Thought," B16 Meets BBC

The news broke on Wednesday to no lack of surprise -- in a rare papal concession to a single media outlet, it emerged that, earlier in the day, B16 had recorded the Christmas Eve edition of "Thought for the Day," aired every morning as part of the BBC's Today program on Radio 4.

Taped in the antechamber of the Paul VI Hall following the General Audience, the Beeb's global coup capped an almost year-long effort to nab a Pope-"Thought," the campaign led by Broadcasting House's Catholic director-general, Mark Thompson.

Described as "an institution" in British life, while leaders of various faiths have been giving the daily "Thought" for four decades, the rationale behind the unprecedented turn from the Vatican appeared twofold -- for one, the appearance served as a way for Benedict to say "thank-you" to the British people for the warmth of their reception on his historic state visit in September... and it likewise underscores the pontiff's commitment to the new evangelization at the close of a year which saw him birth the Roman Curia's first new dicastery in nearly a quarter-century with the purpose of bolstering a reinvigorated proclamation of the Gospels to the "so-called 'first world.'"

With all that as the backdrop, here below is the audio...

...and the text of the Pope's "Thought for the Day" for this Christmas Eve:
Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.

They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfills them.

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history.

And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means; rather, Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

Out of love for us, he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.

As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world. I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers this Holy Season.

I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time.

I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.

I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.

May God bless all of you!
SVILUPPO: On its main news page, BBC has posted video of the recording... and in the clip, the device that captured its audio reveals itself: a white clip-on mic.


"The Day Has Come, At Last...."

Today you will know the Lord is coming,
and in the morning you will see his glory....

PHOTO: Reuters


Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Emmanuel....

O Emmanuel,
king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations,
Savior of all people,
come and set us free,
Lord our God.....

O Magnum Mysterium....

Amid the reflection and quiet of these days, church, at long last, the sun's beginning to hang around increasingly longer...

...and, above all, the Light finally begins to break.....


Normally, to keep with house tradition, the following tune wouldn't run here til tomorrow.

As many of us seem to be hitting the road early this year, though, let 'er rip...

...and "in the grand tradition" of home -- especially for you River City expats at a distance -- the closing half of the one thing that marks these days in this town more than anything else: the Light Show at Wanamaker's (here in most of its revered, pre-Macy's "extraordinary form" -- dancing waters and all... everything, that is, except for the "voice of God"):

Wherever you're headed, whatever you seek, to one and all among us heading off-grid early in the hope of beating the throngs, every wish to you and yours for a Blessed Christmas, safe travels, and a beautiful, joyous and restful Octave.

For the rest of us sticking around, though, as ever, more soon.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O Rex Gentium....

O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man,
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
Six down... One "O" to go.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Oriens....

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light,
sun of justice:
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

100 Hours....

With precisely Four Days to go 'til the Holiest of Hours (or, in Rome, 10pm), lest anyone could use the renewed reminder amid the chaos and clamor of these days, Master Van Pelt, go for it...

...and for those of us who like things even more traditional, a cherished classic for the days just ahead:

If you're looking for headlines, you'll find those on Page Three... for now, though, A1 belongs to the Biggest Story Ever Told.

Blessed Late Advent, gang... you ready?


Monday, December 20, 2010

"Remember, We Have the Vocation of Being a Christian"

By way of introduction, suffice it to say just this: live from yesterday in Volunteer Country, in the context of a Mass for Vocations, the bishop of Knoxville on his Silver Jubilee of priesthood....

...that said, Go Redbirds -- at least, 'til the LCS.


O Clavis David....

O Key of David,
O royal Power of Israel
controlling at your will the gate of Heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

Church's "Garment is Torn -- By the Sins of Priests": At Curial Christmas, B16 Talks Abuse

It's no secret that, in the reign of Benedict XVI, the Pope's traditional Christmas "greeting" to the Roman Curia tends to be something far weightier than mere pleasantry... and along those lines, this morning's latest edition of what's become this pontificate's "Year in Review" speech didn't fail to disappoint.

Though the extensive text likewise included long treatments of the situation of the church in the Middle East and B16's closing impressions on his speech at Westminster Hall and the figure of Blessed John Henry Newman as a recap of September's UK trip, the lead point advanced by the pontiff was Benedict's longest reflection to date by voice on clergy sex-abuse -- the public awareness of which (at least, on a significant institutional scale) erupted in Europe in 2010 much as it did in the States in 2002.

Delivered in the context of June's close to the papally-declared Year of the Priest, here's the according portion of the pontiff's remarks:
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni [Awaken your power, Lord, and come]: amid the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year, this Advent prayer has frequently been in my mind and on my lips. We had begun the Year for Priests with great joy and, thank God, we were also able to conclude it with great gratitude, despite the fact that it unfolded so differently from the way we had expected. Among us priests and among the lay faithful, especially the young, there was a renewed awareness of what a great gift the Lord has entrusted to us in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. We realized afresh how beautiful it is that human beings are fully authorized to pronounce in God’s name the word of forgiveness, and are thus able to change the world, to change life; we realized how beautiful it is that human beings may utter the words of consecration, through which the Lord draws a part of the world into himself, and so transforms it at one point in its very substance; we realized how beautiful it is to be able, with the Lord’s strength, to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in the important moments of their lives and in their dark times; how beautiful it is to have as one’s life task not this or that, but simply human life itself – helping people to open themselves to God and to live from God. We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.

In this context, a vision of Saint Hildegard of Bingen came to my mind, a vision which describes in a shocking way what we have lived through this past year. "In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, ‘Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!’

And she continued: ‘I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.

For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth.’

And I heard a voice from heaven which said: ‘This image represents the Church. For this reason, O you who see all this and who listen to the word of lament, proclaim it to the priests who are destined to offer guidance and instruction to God’s people and to whom, as to the apostles, it was said: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15)" (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).

In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord’s goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood.

We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.

In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a "better than" and a "worse than". Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience. It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind.
PHOTO: Reuters


Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Radix Iesse....

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

O Adonai....

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
(2 down... 5 to go.)


Friday, December 17, 2010

"Pedimos Posada": In Days of "O," The Revolution Continues....

Sure, tonight the Latin church takes up its week of singing the Nightly O's... still, though, there's yet another something Latin among us in these days that fleshes out the sentiment all the more.

Lest anyone thought the Guadalupanos were resting up after last weekend's mass... everything, think again; tonight sees the second leg of Las Posadas -- the traditional re-enactment of the Holy Family's inn-seeking, joined by crowds of the faithful as they journey along.

Each night from 16-23 December (at least, in its full-tilt version), the Virgin and St Joseph -- represented always in carried statues or full creches, but sometimes likewise by actors, usually children -- make their way to several homes begging for a place to stay. Stop by stop, the crowd joins in singing to ask for room, and the couple are ritually turned away until they reach a designated house, where they're given lodging (posada) -- and, of course, a community fiesta open to all ensues.

While not as overwhelmingly massive as the now-de facto Mother of All American Catholic Feasts -- that is, The 12th -- the consistent uptick of Posadas around the country is just another instance of the most significant and widespread manifestations of popular piety the streets have seen from the Stateside church in half a century, or longer still.

And for a taste, here's a clip (o dos) from LA:

...and one (with explanation) from San Antonio:


At the Vatican, "What Time is Midnight?"

Like it or not, folks, as the wider world goes, this week's big story at the Vatican wasn't the Peace Day message, nor the Holy See's fiery response this morning to the recent provocations by China, nor even word that -- as a Pope hasn't in memory -- B16 would be welcoming the poor behind the walls with a lunch....

No, none of these -- as public perception goes, the global lede came courtesy of the now-(in)famous topless acrobats at Wednesday's general audience, whose gyrations made the US morning shows before 9am Wednesday (with at least one of the viral videos of the performance just closing in on a half-million views). And along those lines, the beat's next side-story fits neatly into the frame of Yuletide tradition... but one that can't exactly be taken for granted in the pews anymore: namely, the time of Midnight Mass.

For the second year running, the Pope will celebrate the first liturgy of Christmas Day... on Christmas Eve -- the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations has announced that the start-time will yet again be 10pm (4pm ET, 2100GMT) for the "Midnight" rites, traditionally the world's most-watched religious broadcast of the year (thanks in part to an unusually-high viewership in some surprising locales, among them Indonesia -- the world's largest Muslim country -- and heavily-Protestant Scandinavia).

Of course, this year's Mass in the traditionally overpacked St Peter's will likely see a heavier security presence after its last edition, when a mentally unstable Italian woman jumped a barricade and pulled Benedict to the ground as he processed in, sparking several minutes of chaos before the Pope could proceed to the altar, continuing the celebration without further incident.

That said, for those who'd like to review the pontiff's homilies from his prior Christmases, here are English translations of the texts from 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009... and in the meantime 'til the next one, Monday sees the annual "Year in Review" speech that is the Pope's Christmas message to the Roman Curia -- a "greeting" that usually tends to be weightier than its billing.



O Sapientia....

O Wisdom,
O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation....
...and so, church, the Latin tradition's "Story of 'O'" begins.

Two-minute warning, seven seconds on the shot-clock -- call it what you will... yet the message is still the same: the beginning of Advent's end has sounded.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

On Freedom of Faith

Earlier today saw the release of the papal message for the 44th World Day of Peace, to be observed by the global church, as ever, on New Year's Day.

With 2011's theme dedicated to religious freedom -- and much of it dedicated to late October's brutal attack on Baghdad's Syriac-Catholic cathedral, which saw almost 60 killed as they attended Mass -- here below, B16's full text:

PHOTO: Getty


"Coak-lahoma!" -- Salina Bishop to OKC

Good Thursday morning, gang... and, indeed, the docket's foreseen "tale of two 'cities'" has come to pass.

All of a day after a priest whose vocation he helped inspire was given the high-hat, this morning B16 named Bishop Paul Coakley, 55 -- head of Northern Kansas' diocese of Salina since 2005 -- as archbishop of Oklahoma City, accepting Archbishop Eusebius Beltran's resignation from the post 16 months after the incumbent reached the retirement age of 75.

After a year of numerous surprise moves among the docket's topmost files, it could be said that Coakley's ascent is among the least unexpected of the bunch; his name atop the OKC buzzmill for the better part of the last year, the Wichita-bred prelate -- a career pastor and spiritual director, both in his home diocese and over several years in seminary work at Mount St Mary's in Emmitsburg -- comes equipped with a vitality of voice and work-ethic to tackle a 105,000-member local church with relatively few and uneventful challenges as the wider scene goes... but one whose distinct need for priestly vocations plays especially to his strong-suit.

With less than six years under his belt as head of Northwest Kansas' church of 50,000, the archbishop-elect has garnered particularly notable success as a recruiter of future clerics -- the Salina church entered this academic year with 16 seminarians, the largest formation class it's seen in over two decades. At the same time, given the vacancy that now arises from it, this morning's move short-circuits a pastoral planning initiative slated to trigger there in the New Year which the archbishop-elect launched with an All Saints' Day pastoral on the call to holiness.

At 55, Coakley becomes the second-youngest of the nation's 32 Latin-rite archbishops, 18 of whom have now been named by the reigning pontiff. Yet among the metropolitans, at just shy of six years since his ordination in Salina, the Oklahoma pick has the shortest amount of episcopal experience.

With his appointment, Coakley joins six other Stateside archbishops named to the rank with less than a decade on the bench -- a fairly select group that likewise includes Archbishops Tim Dolan of New York, the coadjutor of Los Angeles José Gomez, Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, Cincinnati's Dennis Schnurr, Seattle's Peter Sartain and San Antonio's Gustavo Garcia-Siller MSpS -- all of whom, except Dolan, have been moved up within the last year. The Oklahoma prelate will join Gomez, Sartain and Garcia-Siller in receiving the pallium from the Pope in Rome on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, next 29 June.

As a result of the move, the number of US Latin-church vacancies now rises to four, while the group of dioceses led by a bishop serving past the retirement age of 75 falls to nine.

Coakley will be installed on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

As ever, more to come.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

To Follow the Star....

Though its celebration isn't supposed to begin til the pre-dawn hours of the 16th, given the prevalent pastoral need on these shores, at this hour another year of the Stateside edition of Simbang Gabi is already underway from coast to coast.

Alongside over 100 parishes in LA and some 70 in Chicago (where the Filipino-born novena's marking the 25th anniversary of its local debut), reports from San Francisco indicate that no less than 40 of its parishes are holding the traditional "Night Masses" this year -- up from 16 at the devotion's 2006 launch there -- while in Orlando, what began with "a few" churches at mid-decade has grown to 17 this time around. (Not to mention, among many others, the annual horde from Seattle (parish reps, above) who yet again thronged at its annual cathedral kickoff last weekend.)

Back in the Philippines, meanwhile, the First Night (or early morning) went off with its usual flair... literally -- keeping with tradition, fireworks marked the Opening Mass at several churches.

To be sure, such is the Novena's place in Pinoy culture that it once provided the backdrop for, of all things, a McDonald's ad:

And, well, all this stands to illustrate these days' Biggest Story among us.

For most of its history, both culturally and in its numbers, Catholicism on these shores took its lead from points East.

Now, though -- and as never before -- the look, feel, strength and promise of this faith's future in our midst are driven from a markedly different direction beyond our borders: namely, the South and West... the spiritual children of el Cerrito de Tepeyac and the Cathedral of Manila just two groups among many others... yet even so, all the more with each passing year, no days of the calendar serve to signify the Stateside church's most dramatic sea-change in nearly two centuries more than those of this very week.

Then again, that seems pretty providential -- not for nothing, it seems, did Redemption come amid the cold of a winter night... and to celebrate its birth in our place and time, you'd be hard pressed to find a better herald than a standing-room crowd on a weekday evening in the nation's largest cathedral:


Bring Out the Acrobats

Lest anyone thought "Condomgate" featured the wildest contortions the Vatican would see for quite some time... here's a clip from this morning's General Audience:

As you might expect, it didn't take long for at least one member of the Rome crowd to wonder aloud which "bright light in the papal household arranged this?"

And for the record: yes, the whacktastic music you hear was, indeed, the soundtrack that played in the Nervi during the performance.

All that said, today's act still doesn't trump the breakdancers who memorably let loose for JPII:


Bench Gift #1: A New Dodge

And so, folks, Rome's traditional Year-End gifting to the Stateside bench is underway.

At Roman Noon today, the Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Ronald Gilmore of Dodge City, naming Fr John Brungardt, heretofore chancellor of the diocese of Wichita, as his successor.

A full-time parish priest alongside his duties in the larger Curia to the east of Dodge, the 52 year-old bishop-elect joins a rising episcopal duo with Wichita roots: the Denver auxiliary James Conley -- a convert, cult figure, and veteran of the Congregation for Bishops -- and the current bishop of Northwestern Kansas, Salina's Paul Coakley, a onetime spiritual director at Mount St Mary's in Emmitsburg... and, indeed, the long-tipped frontrunner to succeed the retiring Archbishop Eusebius Beltran in Oklahoma City (at 16 months past the latter's 75th birthday, now the longest-pending nod on the US docket).

Ordained in 1998, Brungardt (right) was a physics teacher in two Wichita high schools for over a decade before entering the seminary; he has a doctorate in science education. Assigned as a religion teacher after his ordination, he went on to pastor four parishes, and has served as Chancellor since 2005, with special responsibility for Hispanics, who've come to comprise a sizable chunk of the Dodge City church over recent years.

At least in part, Gilmore's early departure is likely a result of the 68 year-old prelate's struggle with alcoholism, which he disclosed in August 2009 before taking a three-month leave for what, on his return, he termed "a fixing time." While reports at the time indicated that the bishop submitted his resignation from the helm of the 60,000-member Kansas church in tandem with his treatment, the Holy See apparently judged it unnecessary to trigger an immediate vacancy and let the customary succession process for a retiring diocesan play out.

On a historic note, one thing that's eluded the Dodge City bishops is longevity. Since its 1951 spinoff from Wichita, the diocese encompassing the Southwestern quarter of Jayhawk Country has seen three of its five ordinaries take early retirement while still in their 60s, and the other two transferred elsewhere.

In keeping with the norms of the canons, the bishop-elect must be ordained and installed within four months of this morning's appointment. And whenever they come, the rites will be the first handover to take place in Dodge City's Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe (above), which was dedicated in 2000 and will host this morning's presser.

SVILUPPO: In his statement, Gilmore cited the "burden" of the episcopacy as the rationale behind his resignation:
Sometimes being a bishop feels like a blessing. Sometimes being a bishop feels like a cursing. For me, being a Bishop has always felt like a burden. It has been the sarcina episcopatus that St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, frequently felt in his 5th century North Africa. He would rather have studied, but he had to preach and to teach. He would rather have prayed, but he had to sanctify through the sacraments. He would rather have worked with his hands, but he had to work with his people. Sarcina, he called it, a bundle to carry, a burden to bear.

It has been my privilege to have borne that sacred burden with exceedingly fine priests and exceedingly good people in these nearly 13 years I have been with you. I was doing something similar for nearly 17 years in the Diocese of Wichita before I came here. While I shall be forever grateful for both those experiences, they have taken their toll.

It became increasingly clear to me over the last two years that the Diocese needed fresh eyes, fresh hands, and a fresh heart. I have done all I know how to do, all my strength permitted me to do, all my weakness allowed me to do. The good priests and good people of this Diocese deserve better from their Bishop than what I was giving them.
PHOTO: Timothy Tray(1); Southwest Kansas Register(2)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Bish Who Stole Christmas?

With 10 Days out, a Yuletide entry for the "you couldn't make it up if you wanted to" file:
A Roman Catholic archbishop surprised his parishioners in Argentina by telling the children that Santa Claus was not real, but instead a commercialized symbol of Christmas.

"That's not Christmas," Archbishop Fabriciano Sigampa of the northern city of Resistencia said in mass, insisting that children should not confuse celebrating the birth of Christ "with a fat man dressed in red."

Sigampa's ire was aroused by plans for a snow covered cabin in the city's main square where a Father Christmas figure would hear children's wishes and receive donated toys to be given out to poor children.

"Surely, in the coming days there will be a deluge of advertisements after they inaugurate the house where a fat man dressed in red lives. And we should not confuse, we should not confuse Christmas with that."

He said children "should know that, in reality, the gifts come from the efforts of their parents and with the help of Jesus."

After the bishop aired his objections, organizers dropped plans for a Santa and renamed the cabin the "House of Christmas."
...and for once, what else is there to say?

PHOTO: Getty