Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Between Contemplation and Activity"

B16 at this morning's Audience:
The Pope was inspired by the Gospel of Luke where it is said that the number of disciples were increasing, but those of the Greek language were complaining because their widows were being neglected compared to those of Jewish origin. “Faced with this urgency that involved a fundamental aspect in the life of the community, charity towards the weak, the poor, the powerless, and justice, the Apostles summoned the entire group of disciples. In this time of pastoral emergency the Apostles discernment stands out. They are faced with the primary need to proclaim the Word of God according to the mandate of the Lord, but even if this is the primary need of the Church, they considered with equally seriousness the duty of charity and justice, that is their duty to assist widows, the poor, with love to respond to situations of need in which their brothers and sisters find themselves, to respond to Jesus' commandment: love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 15,12.17) . So the two realities that have to live in the Church - preaching the Word, the primacy of God, and practical charity, justice - are creating difficulties and a solution must be found so that both can have its place, its necessary relationship . And the reflection of the Apostles is very clear. They say, as we have heard: "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word"(Acts 6.2 to 4). Two things appear: first from that moment a ministry of charity exists in the Church. The Church must not only proclaim the Word, but also realize that the word is love and truth. And the second point: these men must not only enjoy a good reputation, but they must be men filled with the Holy Ghost and wisdom. That is, they can not just be organizers who know what they are doing, but they must do so in the spirit of faith, with the light of God, in the wisdom of the heart and therefore their function, although mainly practical, however, is a spiritual function. Charity and justice are not only social actions, but they are spiritual actions made in light of the Holy Spirit.

“This decision, made after prayer and discernment, provided for the needs of the poor while freeing the Apostles to devote themselves primarily to the word of God. It is significant that the Apostles acknowledge the importance of both prayer and works of charity, yet clearly give priority to prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel”.

“So we can say that this situation is addressed, with great responsibility on the part of the Apostles, who make this a decision: seven men of good reputation are chosen, the apostles pray to ask for the strength of the Holy Spirit and then impose their own hands so that they devote themselves especially to the service of charity. Thus, in the life of the Church, in the first steps it takes, is reflected in a certain way, what happened during Jesus' public life, at the house of Martha and Mary of Bethany. Martha was distracted by offering hospitality to Jesus and his disciples, Mary, however, is devoted to listening to the Word of the Lord (cf. Lk 10:38-42). In both cases, the moments of prayer or and listening to God and daily activities, the exercise of charity are not opposing. The call of Jesus: " Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her" (Lk 10.41 - 42), as well as the reflection of the Apostles: "... we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6.4), show, the priority that we must give to God. I do not want interpret this Martha-Maria pericope now: however, activity for another should not be condemned, but it must be stressed that even inwardly it must be penetrated by the spirit of contemplation. On the other hand, St. Augustine says Mary’s reality is a vision of our situation in heaven, which we can never have completely here on earth, rather a little anticipation that contemplation of God must be present in all our activities. We must not lose ourselves in pure activism, but always allow ourselves and our activities to be penetrated by the Word of God and thus learn true charity, true service to others which does not need many things: it certainly needs necessary things, but above all it also needs the affection of our heart, the light of God”.

“In every age the saints have stressed the deep vital unity between contemplation and activity. Prayer, nourished by faith and enlightened by God’s word, enables us to see things in a new way and to respond to new situations with the wisdom and insight bestowed by the Holy Spirit”." "Every step of our lives – he said - every action, even of the Church, must be made before God in prayer, in the light of his word" "prayer to defend themselves from the dangers of a hectic life which, says St. Bernard, is likely to harden the heart”.

Monday, April 23, 2012

On the Media

Forgive the quiet, folks -- it's not at the desk... and per usual, it won’t be for long on the whole.

As if last week's bombshell wasn't enough, there's more in the pipeline... until the pieces are sufficiently sewn up, though, this scribe’s on special assignment, and your insights are the ones in focus.

Over the coming days, the pages will be mostly dark as I’ll be in Texas, giving a convocation to priests. The topic is the proverbial wheelhouse -- the church on the digital continent, the New Evangelization, new technology and what it brings to the table, with a side-order of buzz to keep anybody’s eyes from glazing over. (At least, one can hope.)

Much as eight years at the desk has made for its fair share of findings, lessons, pitfalls and memories, the sum total is still only one guy’s experience. Part of the exercise of these days, meanwhile, is to lay out what the tools of our time, many as they are, can and do bring to ministry and church life in the trenches.

Ergo, church of all stripes, pray tell: what does all this stuff -- blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblrs, etc. -- do for you? How do they help on the ground? When are they at their best (and, indeed, their worst)? What more could they do to live up to their highest potential? Or, conversely, what difference would it make if they all just up and vanished?

For everybody's fun, the combox is open... and, well, jump right in. Just one ground-rule request: for purposes of context, please say where you’re writing from, and note your state of life, age range, the basics. Beyond that, just keep it clean and on-point and the conversation will be all the better for it.

For the record, contributions will be moderated to keep things from descending into an LCWR/SSPX/AOCA (Any Other Charged Acronym) food-fight. Aside from that, per usual, it's all an experiment, so let's see what happens. With another World Communications Day soon upon us -- and this year's emphasis on balancing silence and perspective with the din -- perhaps the topic is particularly worthwhile to the moment.

Lastly, the diversity and thoughtfulness of this readership has never ceased to amaze me these years in the notes you’ve sent and conversations we’ve had. That’s a very moving gift, and because of that -- because of you -- there seems to be no better spot for this kind of exchange. No pressure.

As ever, all thanks in advance for everything you bring to the table, both here and elsewhere... and with that, the floor is yours -- have at it.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Seven Years On

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.

The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For US Nuns, A Vatican Shake-Up -- LCWR Ordered to "Reform"

While no shortage of today's news-cycle has spent its energy on reports of a possible Vatican breakthrough in the long-sought return to the fold of the Society of St Pius X -- even if nothing definitive is expected to emerge for some weeks -- this noon hour sees an already concrete, and no less blockbuster, Roman move hitting the wires.

Citing "serious doctrinal problems" found over the course of a four-year study of the umbrella-group representing the majority of the US' communities of nuns, the Holy See has announced a thoroughgoing shake-up of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), naming Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its delegate to conduct an overhaul of the group.

Among other concerns raised in an eight-page summary of the doctrinal inquest released today, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cited addresses at LCWR conferences that, it said, manifested a "rejection of faith," protests of church teaching on homosexuality and the ordination of women by officers of the group, and a "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" in some of the conference's events.

"The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern," the dicastery said.

Chartered by the CDF and carried out by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, the LCWR inquest is not directly related to the controversial apostolic visitation of the nation's womens' orders, whose final report was received in Rome at the turn of the year. The findings of that three-year process are still under review, with the Vatican's recommendations likely to be released before year's end.

After approval by the cardinals and bishops of the doctrinal congregation, the findings of the LCWR study were approved by Pope Benedict in early 2011, with an order that the CDF's recommended remedial measures be implemented following the wider visitation.

In its unsigned text, the CDF said of its motive that "the work of any conference of major superiors of women religious can and should be a fruitful means of addressing the contemporary situation and supporting religious life in its most 'radical' sense — that is, in the faith in which it is rooted" (emphases original).

Referring to LCWR manuals and statements obtained by the investigatory team, the assessment added that "while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of church and society, such as the church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching.

"Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose."

* * *
His mandate set to include a "review" of -- and, likely, significant revisions for -- LCWR's statutes, liturgical practices, conference plans and institutional relationships (with its ties to the Catholic social-justice lobby Network specifically cited), the low-key, conciliatory Seattle prelate long viewed as a rising star in church circles will be assisted by two other prelates: Blair and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois, a canon and civil lawyer who recently completed a three-year term as the US bishops' lead hand on legal matters.

As an intriguing subtext, it's worth noting that Sartain's sister is a member of the Nashville-based Dominicans of St Cecilia, a booming, full-habited community widely seen as the vanguard order of a tradition-based reform from within of American religious life.

A native of Memphis trained as a liturgy scholar, the newly-named delegate has scored high marks since becoming head of the 900,000-member Seattle church in late 2010. Given the famously progressive ways of the Northwest's largest diocese -- which saw one of its prior heads, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, himself placed under Vatican investigation and temporarily stripped of much of his authority in the mid-1980s -- the regard and the spirit of collaboration Sartain's engendered by dint of personality is likely a key indicator behind Rome's selection of the 59 year-old to lead the LCWR revamp.

While LCWR was chartered as the sole leadership confederation of the US' womens orders in 1956, concerns over the group's stances on church teaching led to the Vatican-backed creation of an alternative body more receptive to Rome, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), in 1992. Though a handful of communities hold membership in both organizations -- the newer of which requires that its orders maintain a defined habit -- the US is the only country to have dueling superiors' conferences for religious of a single gender. All the nation's mens' orders are represented by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

Saying that the move was "aimed at fostering a patient and collaborative renewal of this conference of major superiors in order to provide a stronger doctrinal foundation for its many laudable initiatives and activities," in a separate statement, the CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada emphasized that "the issues evidenced in the doctrinal assessment involve essential questions of faith."

The LCWR's membership comprises the heads of some 95 percent of the nation's 60,000 women religious, their numbers fallen by two-thirds over the last five decades.

SVILUPPO: As of late Wednesday, LCWR had issued no formal public response to the day's developments. How much notice the group had, though, could well be a relevant issue -- the conference only learned of the Apostolic Visitation of the US' communities of women a few hours before the venture was publicly announced at a Washington press conference.

Despite the lack of official comment, a former LCWR president -- and quite possibly the body's most celebrated member -- Benedictine Sister of Erie Joan Chittister told the National Catholic Reporter that "When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral.

Chittister said the Vatican move was an attempt "to control people for one thing and one thing only -- and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age.

"If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times."


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"A People of Hope"

“The Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges - challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears - with the hope born of God's love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).

In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle's urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit's gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.

The readings of today's Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church's expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom.

The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, and also in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.

"Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!" (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today's Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God's peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now "groaning" in expectation of that true freedom which is God's gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!...

Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to "Christ our Hope". Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope - the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan - that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country....

Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in "groanings" (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God's promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ's own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit's gifts of joy and strength....

Those who have hope must live different lives! By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

--Pope Benedict XVI
Homily at Nationals Park
Washington DC
17 April 2008

Hard to believe it's been four years since that incredible week.

Lest anybody forgot about it, maybe some reading would be worth the time.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Os Guade Zu Deim Geburdstog -- B16 At 85

For the first time since the turn of the 20th century, a Pope has reached the midpoint of his ninth decade as Benedict XVI marks his 85th birthday today.

To commemorate the occasion, over the weekend the Vatican released a handful of photos showing Joseph Ratzinger with his closest confidant -- his brother, Msgr Georg Ratzinger -- in the pontiff's private chapel.

Having turned 88 in January, Der Papstbruder (ordained a priest with his brother on the same day in 1951) said in a recent book-length interview that, given his failing eyesight, Benedict reads him the daily prayers of the Breviary on their visits.

The former director of the boys' choir of Regensburg cathedral, Georg Ratzinger lives at the simple home off a cul-de-sac outside the Bavarian city that his brother built in the 1970s with an eye to their retirement. The duo's middle sibling, Maria -- who moved to Rome with her brother on his appointment as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- died in 1991. In his 2010 Q&A book with the German journalist Peter Seewald, the Pope said that the wristwatch he wears was left to him by his sister on her death.

The last Pope to see 85 was Leo XIII in March 1895, eight years before his death closed a quarter-century reign. Come August, meanwhile, all appearances are that Benedict XVI -- now the sixth-oldest of the 265 bishops of Rome -- will surpass the tenure of Pope Benedict XV, whose relatively brief reign amid World War I was given by the current pontiff on his election as one of his reasons for choosing the name.

As the Pope has gradually curtailed his activities in order to conserve his energy, in an interview earlier this month with a German wire service, Msgr Ratzinger said he expected that his brother "won't travel that much anymore, because it's more and more of an effort." Still, much as today's milestone has spurred the predictable outbreak of chatter in the global press over a papal succession, as previously noted, any signs of an imminent vacancy on Peter's chair simply aren't showing in the cards at present.

For starters, during last month's visit to Cuba, B16 was heard telling Fidel Castro in their private meeting that "Yes, I'm old, but I can still perform my responsibilities." Above all, though, this week brings "High Noon" for a linchpin project of the first German pontificate in a millennium, which marks its seventh anniversary on Thursday....

And, well, more on that in a bit.

SVILUPPO: Earlier today, the Birthday Boy marked the occasion by celebrating Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace....

Giving the homily at the pulpit (as opposed to the usual ex cathedra preaching posture of the Popes), Benedict cited the enduring influence of the saint whose feast shares his birthday -- the visionary of Lourdes Bernadette Soubirous -- as his youth's prime example of "how we should be... that we can't lose a simple heart, the gaze of a simple heart that's able to see what's essential."

Born on Holy Saturday -- the day that, in his words, marks "the silence of God, his apparent absence" -- the pontiff closed his unscripted reflection by saying that "I find myself facing the final phase of my life, and I don't know what awaits me. I do know, though, that the light of God is real, that he is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world.

"This helps me continue on with confidence. This help carries us all forward, and in this moment I thank from my heart everyone who constantly lets me see the 'yes' of God through their faith."

PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano


Saturday, April 14, 2012

"A Holy Man, A 'Friend of God'" -- Miami Mourns Its Cuban "Saint"

These Easter days have brought the loss of an iconic figure of the modern Stateside church as Bishop Agustín Román -- the retired Miami auxiliary revered as the "godfather" of the Cuban exile community on these shores -- died Wednesday night at 83.

Expelled from the island at gunpoint alongside some 130 other clerics in the wake of the Castro Revolution, Román served as the exile's spiritual "beacon" in South Florida since the late 1960s, when he was charged with building the National Shrine to Cuba's patroness, the Caridad de Cobre (Our Lady of Charity).

Named the US' first Cuban bishop in 1979, he continued to live in a one-room apartment at the Ermita -- built facing Cuba on Miami's Biscayne Bay -- following his 2003 retirement, and died there just before he was to teach an evening catechism class in a new religious education facility on its grounds that bears his name.

Famed for an example of deep humility, tireless spirit and simple wisdom, the prelate (who never stopped perceiving himself as the "peasant" of his boyhood) made national headlines in 1987 after defusing an outbreak of riots in US prisons led by Cuban detainees. Having cared for many of the rioters' family members over the years of their confinement -- a witness that, so it's said, led the men to drop their weapons at the mere sight of him -- Román reportedly turned down Hollywood overtures to buy the rights to the story for a film.

While his homeland's Communist regime has made plodding strides toward increasing religious freedoms and hosted two papal visits over the last 15 years, the bishop refused to return to Cuba until Marxism's demise, telling one interviewer that "I was expelled because I was a priest and I am still a priest." Román watched the events of last month's PopeTrip with his faithful at the Shrine, where a projection TV was set up in the sanctuary.

Even as he was grateful to the US as "the nation that welcomed [him]," despite spending most of his life away from the island, Román maintained to the end that "I am a Cuban." Among his adopted own in Miami, meanwhile, one local summed up the widespread sentiment toward him some years back with the musing that "We're living in the presence of a saint."

The bishop's passing notably came three days after Pope Benedict declared the heroic virtue of an earlier exiled Cuban freedom-fighter in the States, the 19th century priest-journalist Felix Varela, leading Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski to pointedly declare Román the "Varela of our time" at the news of his death. When Wenski repeated the line at this afternoon's funeral, a crowd that included several hundred standing in St Mary's Cathedral erupted in prolonged applause.

Paying a rare tribute to an auxiliary, the papal nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, concelebrated the farewell Mass, joining the bishops of Florida and the Vatican's emissary to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, as well as a delegation of Cuban bishops led by their president, Archbishop Dionisio García of Santiago.

On his arrival yesterday, García celebrated a memorial Mass at the Ermita during the 36-hour viewing that stretched through the two nights preceding today's rites, which were aired live on local television. The bishop's longtime assistant, Deacon Manolo Perez, proclaimed the Gospel at today's sendoff, as the replica statute of the Caridad looked on after making a rare journey from the Shrine.

In 1976, Wenski's first Mass as a priest was preached by then-Msgr Román, and on the native son's installation as head of the 1.3 million-member Miami church in June 2010, the senior auxiliary memorably led the rites of welcome at St Mary's doors. Now, three weeks after delivering a strong message in the pulpit of Havana cathedral that made global waves, the archbishop memorialized the exile legend in a homily delivered in Spanish, given here below in its English translation.

* * *
Let me begin by greeting his Excellency, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the United States. This Church of Miami welcomes you; and, we thank you for representing the Holy Father today at Bishop Roman’s funeral Mass. And, of course, Pope Benedict is doubly represented today with the presence also of the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza.

I also greet Archbishop John Favalora and my Brother Bishops from the Ecclesiastical Province of Florida as well as Archbishop Dionisio Garcia of Santiago de Cuba, Bishop Mario Mestil of Ciego de Avila, and Bishop Emilio Arranguren of Holguin who are here to represent the Church in Cuba. Your solidarity with us today is a living witness to the theme of the Jubilee of the 400th Anniversary of the Discovery and the Presence of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba: A Jesus por Maria, la Caridad nos une (To Jesus through Mary, Charity makes us one).

To Bishop Roman’s brother and sisters, to his nephews and nieces, we present our condolences. For the many priests here, Bishop Roman was also a brother and a father. This entire community – Catholics and non-Catholics, Cubans and non-Cubans – feels somewhat orphaned today – not only the hundreds of us who join you here at St. Mary’s Cathedral to pray for your brother but also the those who visited the shrine Thursday night and all day yesterday as well as those thousands who are following this Mass by television or by radio throughout the United States, Latin America, and Cuba. The cross of grief is never easy but you – we - do not bear it alone.

These last three weeks have been days of great intensity: the visit of the Holy Father to Cuba; the liturgical observances of Holy Week and then Easter Sunday and its octave which concludes tomorrow.

Bishop Roman lived these days with that joy that comes from faith. The pastoral visit of the Holy Father, he was convinced, would bring great fruits to Cuba and the Church there as did Pope John Paul II’s visit 14 years ago. And, of course, Holy Week– as it always is for all Christians – was a week of grace; and for Bishop Roman, Holy Week was also a week full of even more opportunities to preach, to teach, to hear confessions: in a word, to evangelize.

On Easter Sunday, the “alleluias” sung to announce Our Lord’s Resurrection were made even more joyful by the announcement that the Pope had declared Father Felix Varela “venerable”.

We, of course, are still in the octave of Easter, eight days celebrated as if they were only one day of Easter. And, it was during this octave of Easter, with its joyfulness of new birth and renewed hopes, that God in his inscrutable ways called Bishop Roman home after a life of dedicated and selfless service both to the Church and to the Cuban nation. When I learned of Bishop Roman’s death on Wednesday evening, I said: The Archdiocese of Miami has lost a great evangelizer who preached the gospel to all. And the Cuban nation has lost a great patriot. Bishop Roman was the Felix Varela of our times.

In his book, Memory and Identity, Blessed John Paul II wrote of the difference between a constructive patriotism and a destructive nationalism. “Patriotism is love for everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features. It is a love which extends also to the works of our compatriots and the fruits of their genius. Whereas nationalism involves recognizing and pursuing the good of one’s own nation alone, without regard for the rights of others, patriotism…is a love for one’s native land that accords rights to all other nations equal to those claimed for one’s own. Patriotism, in other words, leads to a properly ordered social love.”

One’s native land is the common good of all citizens and as such it imposes a serious duty. Like Varela who said “No hay patria sin valores” ("There is no country without values"), Bishop Roman understood that he was not less of a Patriot for being a Catholic and not less of a Catholic for being a patriot. This Varelan synthesis of religious faith and civic duty also explains the importance of the Ermita for the Cuban Diaspora – and for the work that Bishop Roman did here.

We could say that the Shrine was built as a rebuke to the lie of Marxist Leninism that enslaved Cuba 53 years ago. Ideological materialism pretended that God did not exist and tried to erase all trace of God from Cuban history and to destroy the religious identity of Cuban nation. The mural that adorns the shrine tells the true story of Cuban history – a history which acknowledges the contributions of men and women of faith in the life and the identity of the Cuban nation.

But also Bishop Roman saw the shrine as an antidote to the practical materialism that threatens the life of faith even in this land of great freedom and opportunity. This practical materialism, which values people for what they have than for whom they are, pretends that God doesn’t matter.

A few months ago, friend of Bishop Roman told me how the Bishop had changed the course of his life. When he began his career in health care, he had allowed, for what he thought was for good business reasons, some doctors to perform abortions at his clinics. Padre Roman had found out – and went to call on him. “Do you believe in God”, Padre Roman asked him. “Yes”, he replied. And then Padre Roman – who embodied at the same time both profound humility and ardent courage said to him: “ni uno mas; ni uno mas” (Not one more!). And there were no more.

Bishop Roman’s life was lived and coherent witness that God does matter and that because God matters so do the creatures made in his own image and likeness, no matter how weak or how vulnerable. Bishop Roman never tired of putting before us the words of Mary, spoken to the servants at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you to do”. And Bishop Roman always insisted that to be devoted to Mary meant imitating her – in her trust and in her obedient faith.

Last week, during his Easter vigil homily, Pope Benedict XVI said: …the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves.” St. Catherine of Siena once said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.” Bishop Roman’s last hours were spent in the same way he spent his entire life: evangelizing, preaching the gospel. He was what he should have been: a friend of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the exile and the immigrant. He was a friend to us all – because he was first of all and above all a friend of Jesus. He was light; he was fire. His passion for evangelization, for catechesis, was never about making people follow him but rather it was about leading them to Jesus.

In the Haitian Creole language, the word for “saint” is simply translated “zanmi Bondye”, literally a friend of God. Bishop Roman was a holy man and a totally committed priest – he was a “friend of God”. He befriended us and worked tirelessly simply to make us also “Zanmi Bondye”.

Pray for us, Holy Mary, Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Our Lady of Charity, pray for us! Virgin of Charity, save Cuba!

PHOTOS: Archdiocese of Miami(1); Ermita de la Caridad(2); Univisión Miami(3)


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

As the new fire never gets old, every joy, grace and light of Easter to you and yours -- hope the good stuff's spilling into your Octave and runs all through these 50 days ahead.

The usual feed will be back after the Opening Eight. But for now, from the Culture File, perhaps the gold standard of Paschal Proclamations: this year's edition of the Brindellone -- the traditional "exploding cart" ignited outside Florence's Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore following the Easter Day Mass (gratz, G, for sending it along).

Dating to 1096, the spectacle is launched from inside the cathedral, as the city's archbishop lights a fuse attached to a fake dove with the Easter fire, and the prop flies out the doors to ignite the fireworks.

In other words, it's better just to watch:

And, well, may the blessings and new life of your Easter be just as explosive, especially for those among us who seek them most.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

On Easter Day, "Jesus Christ Is Alive!"

Before a ticket-only Easter Morn crowd at "The Nation's Parish" -- and featuring both a nod to another Gotham-based testifying Tim, plus a fresh shot of special news from Rome -- here, the Resurrection Day message of the Cardinal-President of the Stateside Bench....

From parts West, meanwhile, and the country's biggest cathedral church, this morning's preach from the head of the largest diocese in American Catholicism's five-century history -- Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles:

SVILUPPO: Addressing the wider (and, indeed, political) forum this Easter morning, Tim Dolan talked the issues with Bob Schieffer on CBS' Face the Nation:


"Christ, My Hope, Has Risen"

8 APRIL 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

"Surrexit Christus, spes mea" – "Christ, my hope, has risen" (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: "I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: "He has risen! He has truly risen!"

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus "my hope": he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. "Christ my hope" means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: "Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign". The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: "The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting".

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may he grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may he help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens.

Happy Easter to all!

[Following the traditional noontime message to a crowd estimated at over 100,000, B16 delivered Easter greetings in 65 languages.]



Saturday, April 07, 2012

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty,
that he who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises.

V.: The Lord be with you.
R.: And with your spirit.
V.: Lift up your hearts.
R.: We lift them up to the Lord.
V.: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R.: It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart,
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and pouring out his own dear Blood
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These then are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night, when once you led our forebears,
Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin,
lending them to grace, and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death,
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels all wickedness,
washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.

May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son,
who coming back from death’s domain
has shed his peaceful light on humanity
and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

"Let There Be Light"

7 APRIL 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: “Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God” (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: “God said, ‘let there be light!’” (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.

What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence through denial. It is a “no”.

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.

Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.



Friday, April 06, 2012

"In Times of Trial, We Are Not Alone"

Here below, B16's reflection at the close of tonight's Way of the Cross (video) at Rome's Colosseum.

A Good Friday tradition begun by John Paul II, in a first, the reflections for this year's Via Crucis were written by a married couple -- Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, leaders of the family branch of the global Focolare movement.

Per custom, the homily at this afternoon's liturgy of the Lord's Passion in St Peter's Basilica was given by the preacher of the Papal Household, Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa.

Here, the Pope:

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once more in meditation, prayer and song, we have recalled Jesus’s journey along the way of the cross: a journey seemingly hopeless, yet one that changed human life and history, and opened the way to “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. Rev 21:1). Especially today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross; in his cross she sees the tree of life, which blossoms in new hope.

The experience of suffering and of the cross touches all mankind; it touches the family too. How often does the journey become wearisome and difficult! Misunderstandings, conflicts, worry for the future of our children, sickness and problems of every kind. These days too, the situation of many families is made worse by the threat of unemployment and other negative effects of the economic crisis. The Way of the Cross which we have spiritually retraced this evening invites all of us, and families in particular, to contemplate Christ crucified in order to have the force to overcome difficulties. The cross of Christ is the supreme sign of God’s love for every man and woman, the superabundant response to every person’s need for love. At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ’s cross. There we can find the courage and strength to press on; there we can repeat with firm hope the words of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:35,37).

In times of trial and tribulation, we are not alone; the family is not alone. Jesus is present with his love, he sustains them by his grace and grants the strength needed to carry on, to make sacrifices and to evercome every obstacle. And it is to this love of Christ that we must turn when human turmoil and difficulties threaten the unity of our lives and our families. The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection inspires us to go on in hope: times of trouble and testing, when endured with Christ, with faith in him, already contain the light of the resurrection, the new life of a world reborn, the passover of all those who believe in his word.

In that crucified Man who is the Son of God, even death itself takes on new meaning and purpose: it is redeemed and overcome, it becomes a passage to new life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). Let us entrust ourselves to the Mother of Christ. May Mary, who accompanied her Son along his way of sorrows, who stood beneath the cross at the hour of his death, and who inspired the Church at its birth to live in God’s presence, lead our hearts and the hearts of every family through the vast mysterium passionis towards the mysterium paschale, towards that light which breaks forth from Christ’s resurrection and reveals the definitive victory of love, joy and life over evil, suffering and death. Amen.

PHOTO: Getty


"Why In the World Would We Call This Day 'Good'?"

Here, an answer to the Big Question of this Friday afternoon....

...and in an earlier turn from this Holy Week, the head of the bench on the need to anoint "the bleeding, broken, mystical body of Christ."

“The mockery continues. It becomes almost a ritual. They divide his clothing. They scoff at him and call on him to save himself. They offer him sour wine to provoke him. They even use, unknowingly to themselves, the truth to mock him: they place an inscription on the Cross which reads “This is the King of the Jews”.
The innocent, just, sensitive Jesus is exposed to mockery as the business of putting him to death goes on in its sordid normality. Soon the spectacle will be over, the job will be done, the killing-squad will return to the city, to home and family. It all has to be done quickly because the Passover is near and respectable people do not like distasteful spectacles to spoil their religious feasts.

But it ends in a different way. The sordid routine turns dark. Darkness descends on the scene. For those charged with killing Jesus this must have been just another inconvenience. But think of the faithful ones: Mary his Mother, the distraught disciples who watch at a distance, the Nicodemuses and Josephs of Arimathea who had come to him by night and begun to have hope in him. Is this darkness the end of hope?

Think of Jesus. His words are few. He is exhausted and in pain. Two words however remain: a word of mercy to the criminal who repents; a word of fidelity, handing himself to his Father, his mission completed.

Lord we live in a world filled with words. Perhaps never in history have there been so many words: spoken, printed, electronically stored or moving invisibly. Help us to realise that few words are necessary. Empty words foster empty hearts. There are realities which do not need words. Give us Lord the words to ask for forgiveness, the words which touch those things in our hearts we would not want anyone to hear, but things that keep us entrapped in sinfulness and isolation. Give us words to forgive, to be generous and loving.Open our heart in mercy to those who long for freedom. Keep us faithful like Jesus to what we are called to, to what is most noble and good in our lives.

In a world where everything has a shelf-life and what we dislike can be quickly discarded, help us to learn that singular characteristic of God: being faithful. The events of Good Friday realise something that has been spoken of throughout the history of God’s encounter with his people. God remains faithful to his people, even when his people generation after generation fail him and fail him and betray him and betray him.

True goodness is not a passing emotion. It is not about feeling good. It is about being faithful to goodness when it is easy, when it is challenging, and even when it leads to our annihilation in the eyes of those who seek their only own interest.

Jesus dies. He breathes his last and that last is the same as the first words recorded about Jesus: “I must be about my Father’s business”; “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.

Jesus humbles himself, he empties himself, and his love is so great that he empties himself even unto death, death on the Cross. But the Cross triumphs. His self-giving love is so complete that it brings new life, true live.

Lord, help us to reject everything that is trivial and superficial. Give us the love that Jesus showed on the Cross: love that endures and that saves.
--Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
The Way of the Cross
The Phoenix Park, Dublin
6 April 2012
And as it dawns, the prophecy of this Good Friday....


Thursday, April 05, 2012

In Remembrance

And as our Holy Thursday night begins, two of its cherished classics....



Again, to one and all, those you love and those you serve, every blessing, grace and richness of this Triduum -- these priceless days that ever remind us what all the rest is all about.

And in the words of this First Night's final rubric, 'til tomorrow, church, "All depart in silence."


"Let Us Ask the Lord To Draw Us Into This 'Yes'"


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his disciples Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his “exodus” to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means – as they add – “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. “No one has ever seen God”, says Saint John. The one “who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known” (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God “Abba”, went on to say: “Everything is possible for you. You can do all things” (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he “threw himself on the ground” (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this “yes” to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

PHOTO: Getty


"If Priests and Bishops Don't Change, Little in the Church Can Change"

Amid a "perfect storm" of epic circumstances in the life of the charge he was sent to rebuild, here below is fullvid of the potent call to renewal, "conversion and purification" given this morning by Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Philadelphia to his presbyterate at the traditional Holy Thursday Chrism Mass:


"Is Disobedience A Path of Renewal?"

5 APRIL 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be "consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. "Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?" After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country [Ed.: Austria] issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided "translations" on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a "translation" of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such "translations" of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as "gift and mystery". The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

Dear friends, I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. Firstly, the reminder that – as Saint Paul put it – we are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1) and we are charged with the ministry of teaching, the munus docendi, which forms a part of this stewardship of God’s mysteries, through which he shows us his face and his heart, in order to give us himself. At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The Curé of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is "zeal for souls": animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word "soul" is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.

PHOTO: Getty