Monday, September 29, 2008

A "New Creation" at the Nervi

First announced by the Vatican 16 months ago, earlier today the first of 2,400 solar panels went up on the roof of the Home Office's biggest energy guzzler: the 6,300-seat Paul VI Audience Hall:
Rome gets lots of sunshine, and engineers say the cells will produce enough electricity to illuminate, heat or cool the hall.

"With this plant, if it is working in about two weeks we avoid 210 tons of carbon dioxide and this is the equivalent to 70 tons of oil," said Andre Koekenhoff, from Thermovolt, the company installing the panels.

The solar panels were donated by SolarWorld, based in Bonn, Germany. The company's CEO gave the panels a Bonn-based company called SolarWorld. The company's CEO decided to give the solar project as a gift to the German-born pope.

According to Catholic News Service, the solar panels and inverters are worth nearly $1.5 million and should work without much maintenance for 25 years.
In his first major talk during July's World Youth Day in Sydney, the Pope dropped not a few jaws for prominently working the green thread into the circle of life.

Especially amid these polarized days of "false idols and piecemeal responses," the talk's fulltext is well-worth a refresher-read.

PHOTO: AP/Riccardo DaLuca


Burke: Dems Risk "Death"

He might be re-settling into Roman life as the church's new "chief justice," but the ringleader of 2004's first movement among the US bishops to bar pro-choice public officials from the Eucharist has sent strong words back home with 36 days to go 'til Election '08.

Now prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Raymond Burke's comments ran in Saturday's edition of the Italian bishops' newspaper, Avvenire:
The newspaper asked the archbishop... for his reaction to reports that his Vatican job was designed to get him away from St. Louis.

"I have too much respect for the pope to believe that in order to move someone away from a diocese he would nominate him to a very sensitive dicastery like this one," said the archbishop, whose office is in charge of ensuring that lower church courts correctly administer justice in accordance with canon law.

Archbishop Burke was asked if he knew that the August Democratic National Convention in Denver featured a guest appearance by Sheryl Crow, a musician whose performance at a 2007 benefit for a Catholic children's hospital the archbishop had opposed because of her support for abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.

"That does not surprise me much," the archbishop said. "At this point the Democratic Party risks transforming itself definitely into a 'party of death' because of its choices on bioethical questions as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, 'The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts and the Disregard for Human Life.'"

Archbishop Burke said the Democratic Party once was "the party that helped our immigrant parents and grandparents better integrate and prosper in American society. But it is not the same anymore."

Pro-life Democrats are "rare, unfortunately," he said.

Archbishop Burke also was asked about being one of a few U.S. bishops to publicly ban Catholic politicians who hold positions contrary to church teaching from receiving Communion.

"Mine was not an isolated position," the archbishop said. "It was shared by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, by Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte (N.C.) and by others."

"But it is true that the bishops' conference has not taken this position, leaving each bishop free to act as he believes best. For my part, I always have maintained that there must be a united position in order to demonstrate the unity of the church in facing this serious question," he said.

"Recently, I have noticed that other bishops are coming to this position," he said, especially after Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "while presenting themselves as good Catholics, have represented church teaching on abortion in a false and tendentious manner."

Archbishop Burke said he is convinced that a 2004 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the U.S. bishops and canon law say "it is not licit to give holy Communion to one who is publicly and obstinately a sinner. And it is logical that one who publicly and obstinately acts in favor of procured abortion enters into this category."
For the record, Burke's not the only curial head talking death lately -- the church's Social Justice Czar did the same earlier today at a Sant'Egidio-sponsored conference in Rome on the universal moratorium of capital punishment:
There goes the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, in Rome today, looking to the day in which the death penalty is "definitively eliminated" from the earth.... Cardinal Martino left American Catholics no wiggle room in his description of the death penalty as "contrary to the great Christian values which sustain the universal rights of man".
And finally, having garnered no shortage of reaction and "multiple requests" for clarification following his impromptu post-Meet the Press homily on Catholic politicians, church teaching, abortion and natural law, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison "set[s] the record straight" in his latest column for the diocesan Herald.

PHOTO: AP/Tom Gannam


God Help Us

Dow plunges 730 points; biggest single-day drop in history....

4.10pm: now 770 points...

4.15: 777.68...

Hang in there, folks.


At LGBT Confab, Jaimeshock

Following recent ousters of openly-gay lay ministers at parishes in Madison and Boston, the latest intervention of note on the church's teaching on homosexuality came from Coadjutor-Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who shocked some attendees with his keynote at last month's annual conference of the nation's diocesan LGBT ministries.

A rising star of the US bench better known for leading its charge on immigration reform, Soto's talk was delivered in the context of Proposition 8 -- the November item on the California ballot which, if passed, would end the state's court-sanctioned rollout of same-sex marriage via a constitutional amendment defining it as the union of a man and a woman.

Folks present at the 18 September talk at the three-day gathering in Long Beach noted that the usually-animated Soto "did not once look" at his audience, focusing instead on reading his prepared text, during which a handful of attendees walked out.

Fulltext; snips:
We can easily give in to the temptation to go along in order to get along. We can easily be duped by the popular ideas and trends that surround us. “Everybody does it” can become reason enough to think it or do it ourselves. Like Peter we can think that what Jesus teaches us is too unrealistic, too unreasonable. Like Peter we can convince ourselves that we know better than the Lord. We may even try to negotiate with Jesus, like Peter does, for easier terms.

We see this especially in the area of sexuality. So much of what we see and hear everyday can lead us to a distorted sense of our sexuality. Sexuality has been reduced to a matter of personal preference and personal pleasure without responsibility and with little respect for others. We can lose sight of the profound dignity of the human person who shares in God’s love and creative work through the chaste expression of one’s sexuality proper to one’s calling in life.

We are surrounded by a “contraceptive culture” that has reduced the procreative act to simple recreation absolved of any responsibility.

The deceptive language of “pro-choice” ignores the consequences of the choice for abortion that does violence to the most innocent and leaves traumatic scars on many young women.

What is a particular concern and alarm for us in California as well as others across the country is the bold judicial challenge to the longstanding cultural and moral understanding of marriage as a sacred covenant between a woman and a man. Our own efforts to restore common sense through the ballot initiative, Proposition 8, are portrayed as bigoted and out-of-touch. The irony is that what we propose is most in touch with the nature of families and what is good for the welfare of all.

That we find ourselves at this time, reasserting the basic moral and reasonable understanding of marriage, means that much has changed in the popular perceptions of sexuality and common notions about marriage. While we work to pass Proposition 8 this coming November, it is important to remember why we do this. Like Jesus, in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew that I cited about, we are saying a strong “no” to the California courts and to many who support the court’s wrong-headed decision. This “no” is not rooted in bigotry or bias. It is firmly rooted in a greater “yes” to a truer, more authentic appreciation of love’s calling and love’s design for the human heart.

The nature of love has been distorted. Many popular notions have deviated from its true destiny. Love for many has come to mean having sex. If you cannot have sex than you cannot love. This is the message. Even more destructive is the prevailing notion that sex is not an expression of love. Sex is love. This reductio ad absurdam deprives sexuality of its true meaning and robs the human person of the possibility of ever knowing real love.

Sexual intercourse is beautiful expression of love but this is so when intercourse is understood as a unique expression intended to share in the creative, faithful love of God. As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, elaborated in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love” – between a man and woman – “becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love.” (DCE, n. 11) Sexual intercourse within the context of the marriage covenant becomes a beautiful icon – a sacrament – of God’s creative, unifying love. When sexual intercourse is taken out of this iconic, sacramental context of the complementary, procreative covenant between a man and a woman it becomes impoverished and it demeans the human person.

Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman in the covenant of Marriage is one expression of love to which the human person can aspire but we are all called to love. It is part of our human nature to love. We all have a desire to love but this love can deviate from its true calling when it exalts only in the pleasure of the body. Pope Benedict said in the same encyclical, “The contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.” (DCE, n. 5) This is not our true calling. The human desire to love must lead us to the divine. Looking again to the Holy Father’s encyclical he says, “True, eros – human desire – tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.” (DCE, n. 5)

This path is the path of chastity. This is very true in marriage. It is also true in all of human life because it is the nature of all authentic love. We are all called to love. We are all called to be loved. This can only happen when we choose to love in the manner that God has called us to live. Love leads us to ecstasy, not as a moment of intoxication but rather as a journey, “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: ‘Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it’ (Lk 17:33).” (DCE n. 6)

Sexuality, then, as part of our human nature only dignifies and liberates us when we begin to love in harmony with God’s love and God’s wisdom for us. Chastity as a virtue is the path that brings us to that harmony with God’s wisdom and love. Chastity moves us beyond one’s desire to what God wills for each one of us. Chastity is love’s journey on the path of “ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.” Chastity is the understanding that it is not all about me or about us. We act always under God’s gaze. Desire tempered and tested by “renunciation, purification, and healing” can lead us to God’s design.

This is true for all of us. It is also true for men and women who are homosexual. We are called to live and love in a manner that brings us into respectful, chaste relationships with one another and an intimate relationship with God. We should be an instrument of God’s love for one another. Let me be clear here. Sexual intercourse, outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, can be alluring and intoxicating but it will not lead to that liberating journey of true self-discovery and an authentic discovery of God. For that reason, it is sinful. Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distract them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all. For this reason, it is sinful.

Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression.

Marriage is also not the sole domain of love as some of the politics would seem to imply. Love is lived and celebrated in so many ways that can lead to a wholesome, earnest, and religious life: the deep and chaste love of committed friends, the untiring love of committed religious and clergy, the profound and charitable bonds among the members of a Christian community, enduring, forgiving, and supportive love among family members. Should we dismiss or demean the human and spiritual significance of these lives given in love?

This is a hard message today. It is the still the right message. It will unsettle and disturb many of our brothers and sisters just as Peter was unsettled and put off by the stern rebuke of his master and good friend, the Lord Jesus. If the story of Peter’s relationship with Jesus had begun and ended there, it would have been a sad tale indeed but that is not the whole story then nor is it the whole story now. Jesus met Simon Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He said with great love and fondness, “Come, follow me.” Peter would not only continue to follow the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem. Despite his many failings and foibles he would eventually choose to love as Jesus loved him. He would die as martyr’s death in Rome, giving himself completely for the one who loved him so dearly.
As previously noted, the Orange-born, Columbia-trained social worker-cum-policy wonk as conversant on Mother Jones as he is on Mother Church will succeed Bishop William Weigand at the helm of the 900,000-member church in California's capital on 30 November.

PHOTO: Mark Rightmeyer/Orange County Register


The "New" New York

Later today, New York's Presbyteral Council sits for its first meeting since the body's well-regarded head was removed last month on multiple allegations of misconduct dating back three decades.

If experience is any indicator, earplugs might be useful.

More importantly, though, while the Stateside church's marquee see prepares yet again to host both presidential candidates in tribute to its Irish-dominant legacy, its Catholic population quietly but firmly passed the majority-Hispanic mark some years ago. Yet even so, the ecclesial ground-shift away from the Gotham church's first great immigration remains an ongoing process; last year, the traditional Guadalupe-eve mañanitas were held for the first time in St Patrick's Cathedral, and the Latino ascendancy reached a new watermark over the weekend at the 2 million-member fold's annual Catechetical Convocation:
The “Irish church” that once was in New York is becoming—or has become—an “Hispanic church.”

Some 2,000 educators—people who teach in parish education programs around the archdiocese—came to the convocation. They came for spiritual nourishment and to learn how to become better teachers.

No one was counting the ethnicity of those present, but I would guess that more than half of those in attendance were Hispanic. Maybe way more than half. It would have been easy to step inside the County Center (home to so many reptile shows and used computer shows) and think that it was some sort of Hispanic gathering.

Taking things further, the vast majority of white people in attendance were old-timers. But I saw lots of Hispanic teens and 20-somethings, some of whom seemed to tag along with their parents or their siblings—to an all-day catechetical conference.
Reinforcing the point, headlining the day was Hermana Glenda -- the Chilean-born, Gregorian-trained psychologist now living as a diocesan sister near Barcelona... best known, however, as this age's "Singing Nun":

That sound you hear? Renewal.

But as any singing nun reference would be remiss without recalling The Original, the obligatory Sourire fix...

Now 18 months past his 75th birthday, word on the ad intrade increasingly tips Cardinal Edward Egan's retirement and the appointment of his successor for next spring; as of last report, work on the former rectory widely understood to be the cardinal's post-452 pad-in-waiting was still approaching completion.


Angels and Demons

On this feast of Ss. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications revealed the Pope's chosen theme for the next World Communications Day: "New Technologies, New Relationships -- Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

(Suffice it to say, fill in the blanks.)

Established by Paul VI in 1967 and observed each May, the full papal message for the 43rd WCD will be rolled out on 24 January, the feast of the patron of journalists, St Francis deSales.

Citing a "crossroads" moment in the world, Benedict's text for this year's celebration took issue with the exploitation of media for ideological purposes, musing on "whether it is wise to allow the instruments of social communication to be exploited for indiscriminate 'self-promotion' or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences.

"Should it not be a priority to ensure that they remain at the service of the person and of the common good, and that they foster 'man’s ethical formation … man’s inner growth'?" it asked.

On this feast of the archangels, here's hoping his next call to our better angels gets a better hearing.


The Will to Hope

His first see city reopened, but much of it still without utilities and under curfew, its streets piled up with residents' belongings, Cardinal Dan DiNardo of Galveston-Houston made his second trip to the Ike-ravaged island yesterday, this time for Mass:
Although many parishioners are unable to return to Galveston because of damage to their homes, those who remained filled St. Patrick Church to hear DiNardo urge them to rely on their faith to see them through the recovery.

"We need to be patient and also trust in the Lord," DiNardo said.

St. Patrick's was built in 1870 and raised 5 feet after the devastating 1900 hurricane that killed at least 6,000, the worst disaster in U.S. history.

When Ike struck, the additional height kept storm water from the church proper, but the basement, priests' quarters and school suffered heavily, church officials said.

Eight feet of water damaged St. Mary's, the oldest Catholic cathedral in Texas, built in 1847, St. Mary's rector, the Rev. Brendon Murphy, said.

The Reina de la Paz Catholic Church was a total loss, Murphy said.

Parishioner Euframia Vina, 65, of Galveston, a CPA who lost her job after Ike's floodwaters destroyed her firm's office, took solace from DiNardo's words.

"The Mass was so touching, it gave me hope," Vina said....

DiNardo, in an interview following the Mass, said he saw a will to recover in the faces of the congregants. "I noticed in them a genuine spirit of hope," he said.
For more, video from H-Town's CBS affiliate, and a shot-gallery in today's Chron.

As previously noted, St Mary's Cathedral-Basilica remains closed pending extensive cleaning and repairs. And the region's Catholic Charities needs whatever help it can get.

Quote of the Day comes from a local woman interviewed after the Mass: "A lot of my major stuff is [in] the street -- I think God wanted me to downsize, and I'm downsized now."

As she said it, she was smiling... the power of faith.

PHOTO: Eric Kayne/Houston Chronicle


"On Holy Ground"

Speaking of circuit-riding, an open-air liturgy was held yesterday on a field 30 miles outside Columbus to mark the 200th anniversary of Ohio's first Mass on the site.

Celebrated in a log cabin by the Maryland-born Dominican Edward Fenwick -- who, by 1821, was named the state's first bishop -- the grounds were recently acquired by the Columbus diocese and dedicated as a memorial at yesterday's Eucharist:
It was here that the first Mass was held in September 1808, five years after Ohio became a state. It's also where Ohio's first Catholic church, St. Joseph's, was built years later.

Generations of storytelling, not to mention detailed record-keeping, have kept the area's religious history alive.

Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell, who celebrated Mass outdoors at the site yesterday, recounted the story of pioneer Jacob Dittoe and how he wrote to Bishop John Carroll in Baltimore, Md., begging for a priest. In late September 1808, when the Rev. Edward Fenwick arrived from Kentucky and found Dittoe's log cabin, the pioneer's family thought he was a messenger sent from heaven.

"There were probably paths, rather than roads," Campbell told the crowd. "And by the time he actually found Jacob Dittoe, he was saddle sore. And yet, he came."

As the story goes, Fenwick celebrated Mass for about 20 people inside Dittoe's log cabin.

The log cabin has long since been torn down, but the significance of the land, which for years was part of a family farm, is well-preserved.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus purchased the 8-acre tract under former Bishop James A. Griffin, who envisioned building a chapel and visitor center there.

Now, in a clearing bordered by trees, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands in the center of a freshly planted rosary garden. Eventually, a replica of Dittoe's cabin will be built, said Pete Thomas, who lives in New Albany and is a descendant of the Dittoe family. He helped organize yesterday's ceremony.

"All these same families that moved in 200 years ago are still very involved in all aspects of life in Perry County," Thomas said. He estimated that he is related to roughly half of the people who turned out for the celebration. "It really makes you reaffirm your faith and think about how blessed you are," Thomas said.
PHOTO: Doral Chenoweth III/Columbus Dispatch


Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Ostensus Est Nobis"

Keeping with the theme of Papa Luciani on this 30th anniversary, major tip to the Vita Nostra page for digging up the memorial homily given by one of his cardinal-electors -- one of six voters at 1978's twin conclaves still living today... the then-archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The following was delivered on 6 October 1978 in Munich cathedral:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have come together for the Eucharist in sorrow at the sudden death of our Holy Father John Paul I, and in this liturgy we bring our sorrow to the light of the love of Jesus Christ, which is stronger than death. We want to draw close to this love, to purify ourselves in it and to prepare ourselves for the resurrection and eternal life.

Brothers and Sisters! It has not yet been a month from the day in which we were together, filled with joy, in this cathedral, to thank God for having given us the new Pope John Paul I. Then we couldn’t foresee how soon he would be taken and we still cannot understand the reason. “God gave, God has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”, we can say with Job. In the history of the popes there is a person similar to him in his destiny and who could help us to bear this better; this is Marcellus II, next to whom John Paul I has now found his final resting place.

It was the year 1555: The Council of Trent had been interrupted without concrete results and there did not seem any possibility of it beginning. Thus the Church remained torn between renewal and reform, as if sunk in a deep depression, unable to pull itself out. Thus in one of the shortest conclaves in history, Cardinal Cervini was elected by acclamation. He was one of the presidents of the Council of Trent, a person who even in that obscure period had tried to live the Gospel in a credible way to bring to fulfilment the “Christian reality” from his deepest center, as a goal of greatest importance. He began immediately with actions that attracted attention and brought a refreshing breeze. He refused the ostentation of the papal coronation and began with a very simple ceremony, which saved enormous sums which ordinarily would have been spent for such ceremonies. He decided that half of it would be used to cover papal debts and the other half would be distributed to the poor so that the day of his installation would be above all a day of joy for the poor.

Rome was, at that time as now, stamped with the sign of violence. But she changed her face, men put down their arms and turned over a new page. The general of the Augustinians, Father Serepando, said that he had prayed for a pope who could renew and restore honour to three words fallen into disrepute: church, council, reform, and he considered that with this election he had been heard. There were no preferences for his relatives. Rather he let them know that they needn’t come to Rome. He did not meddle in the disputes of the factions, but he called all to peace and he lived his mission, from the heart of the Eucharist, in a manner which had long since become unknown.

After 22 days he died. And another Augustinian, Parvenio, applied to him with sorrow the words which Virgil had once written for another Marcellus: Ostensus est nobis, non datus. (He was only shown to us, not given.) In spite of this, historians of the papacy affirm that this pontificate of only 22 days represented a true turnabout, a point of departure, a great step from which there would be no return. The door was thrown open. The reform had turned into a reform; that is, there could no longer be a return to a comfortable existence, but rather an aiming towards the center of the faith, and the church began again to live.

Ostensus non datus: shown to us but not given. This is what we would like to say about Pope John Paul I, whose smile conquered the attention and gaze of the world. “The Pope of the Smile” the Italians called him with affection and the whole world agreed. The morning of his death, when Cardinal Confalonieri entered the room of the dead man, his face was only slightly inclined and in his expression was still present that inimitable smile which had made this man stand out in a particular way. This smile was not a mask, behind which a person can hide himself nor was it a studied gesture to obtain something, but the expression, unconscious and natural of a soul transparent and luminous to its very depths. Yes it is not a question of a gift received from nature, but rather something acquired from Jesus Christ, living at an ever-deeper level. We can glimpse a part of his spiritual journey from his letters, gathered together in this very beautiful book, Illustrissimi which in its simplicity, serenity and greatness has remained as his enduring testament.

Particularly moving is his letter to Therese of Lisieux with whom he had a special intimate affinity. He says to her, “Love in little things. Often this is the only kind possible. I never had the chance to jump into a river to save a drowning man; I have been very often asked to lend something, to write letters, to give simple and easy instructions. I have never met a mad dog; instead I have met some irritating flies and mosquitoes. I have never had persecutors beat me but many people disturb me with noises in the street, with the volume of the television turned up too high or unfortunately with making noise in drinking soup. To help, however, one can not take it amiss, to be understanding; to remain calm and smiling (as much as possible) in such occasions is to love one’s neighbour without rhetoric in a practical way”.

He also remembers the name which Dante gave Our Lord, “Lord of all courtesy”. He finds this Lord in Sacred Scripture, speaking of the faults and stubbornness which he had to put up with in his apostles. He finally told them, “You are those ho have borne with me in my trials”. What! There came to his mind the saying of the great Teresa. “A sad saint is a sorry saint”. He also tells a little parable in which he himself is reflected. “An Irishman died whose life had not been overflowing with good works. At the time of judgment he stood in line waiting his turn. He looks and sees the Lord turning over the cards of the various people and he says to the first: ‘I was hungry, you gave me to eat. Heaven!’ To the second, ‘I was thirsty, you gave me to drink. Heaven!’ To the third, ‘I was naked, you gave me clothes. Heaven!’ The Irishman’s heart was more and more uneasy because he had never done any of that. Trembling, he stepped before the judge, not daring to look at him. But glancing up timidly he noticed in his eyes something like a hidden furtive smile. The Lord took out his card and told him, “well, there’s not really much here. But once I was sad and you told me a joke which made me laugh. On your way to Heaven!”’ Such was John Paul I. That’s how he was. He didn’t just tell us a story, he made us a gift of his smile; he allowed us to get a glimpse into the depth of the “human essence” to guess something of paradise lost.

However, he was certainly not a simple minded, good little old man, unaware of the gravity of live and the reality of today. I have personally seen, in Latin America, with what gratitude and relief his words on the theology of liberation were received – that it is not a theology because it is not founded on God but rather on the struggle between the classes and it does not aim at liberty but rather the dictatorship of the party. How simple and great are his words: “It is not true, Ubi Lenin, ibi Jerusalem – where Lenin is, there is Jerusalem”. And what was our gratitude when he condemned that false creativity in the liturgy which does not celebrate the common mystery of the Church, but honours one’s own “creativism” precluding and harming in the way for many, access to the renewed liturgy.

What importance there was to have broken the deadly silence of the West concerning Lebanon. We were convinced quite willingly that there were only a few privileged people, probably fascists, defending their interest. A Lebanese once told me sadly, “For you oil is more important than the spirit”. We have turned our gaze elsewhere, in order not to see because we didn’t want to risk our interests. But he stripped the veil away and made us see that between the panislamic aspiration to power and the social utopia of the Palestinians, there was a small Christian minority which was trampled on.

Ostensus, non datus – he was shown to us, not given, Can we truly say that? No, I hold that the correct formulation should be: Ostensus et datus – he was shown to us and he gave himself to us, with his soul, to the limits of his strength.

On the death of Cardinal Dopfner he mentioned the consoling figure of St. Christopher who carried Christ across the rivers of history. On the death of Pope Paul VI there shone the light of the transfiguration of Christ. Pope John Paul I departed during the night of the feast of St. Michael called by tradition the “Psychopomp” the escort of souls, who escorts it through the night of death to the light of the Lord. He was buried on the day of St. Francis of Assisi, the amiable saint that he resembled so much. For us believers it is not foolishness. It was the authentic expression of the fact that faith has transformed time, that is no more the sum of anonymous days, the empty net of death in which some day or another we will be caught without escape. Time has been transformed. By the action of the Lord it has become the history of God, men who proceed from that history and who accompany us, consoling us, acting as our guides, as symbols of hope and faith. Time is no longer the net of death, but rather the hand of God’s mercy held out, who supports and seeks us. His saints are the columns of light who show us the way, transforming it certainly into the path of salvation while we pass through the darkness of earth. From now on he too will belong to that light. The one who was given us for only 33 days; from him, however, there shines a light which can no longer be taken from us. It is for this that we know want to thank the Lord with our whole hearts. Amen.
...and some video, with English subtitles:

On a related note, having recently made his first venture into the fray on the legacy of Pope Pius XII, Benedict XVI will commemorate the "Pastor Angelicus" in greater depth at a 9 October Mass in St Peter's marking the 50th anniversary of last Roman-born pontiff's death.


"Priestless Sunday"

These days, much of the nation might be taken with one Alaskan phenom (who had her first cheesesteak yesterday)... but back home in the Bush, the US church's lone remaining missionary diocese is using this Sunday to underscore an even broader trend:
Dubbed “Priestless Sunday,” next weekend will find parish leaders filling the pulpits at Roman Catholic churches all around Fairbanks and the road systems.

No, the urban parish priests haven’t all taken vacations at the same time. Instead, they will be ministering in rural parishes across the sprawling Fairbanks Catholic Diocese, which encompasses almost a half million square miles north of the Alaska Range to the Arctic Ocean and west to the Bering Sea.

Priestless Sunday is the product of “thinking outside the box,” and a creative attempt to deal with the acute shortage of Roman Catholic priests, explained Robert Hannon, special assistant to the Bishop Donald Kettler.

Deacons and lay presiders will be conducting communion services — Celebration of the Word with Holy Communion — both Saturday and Sunday. It is not Mass but will satisfy the Catholic obligation to attend Mass.

Kettler has personally been preparing urban parishioners for next weekend, visiting each of the local parishes for town meeting style gatherings and explaining the twofold goal of Priestless Sunday: to establish a sister parish program that is not just priest to community but community to community.

“I can’t say they were happy about doing this, but they understood the necessity of it because of the shortage of priests,” Kettler said.

The diocese has only 17 priests, but serves approximately 16,000 Catholics spread out across 47 parishes, the vast majority of which are only reachable by airplane most of the year. It’s the norm for priests serving in outlying areas to divide their ministry among six to eight rural parishes. Rural churches will have a visiting priest to celebrate Mass about once every six weeks, Kettler said.

Kettler and eight local priests will be flying out at the end of next week to spend three or four days in Bush ministry.

Considering fuel costs have doubled since last year, the weekend program is not inexpensive.
(SVILUPPO: Thanks to the several readers who noted that, contrary to the above article's claim, the Mass obligation is dispensed where Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest are celebrated.)

...meanwhile, in Razorback Country, newly-ordained Bishop Tony Taylor of Little Rock recently recalled how experiencing the bigger picture made his fears "disappear completely":
[T]here was a lot to be concerned about as a seminarian in the 1970s. There was a lot of turmoil. Many priests and nuns were abandoning their vocations -- more were leaving than entering, even as the number of Catholics was growing rapidly in Oklahoma -- just like in Arkansas.

Thousands of Catholic immigrants were arriving from Vietnam and from Mexico. Soon there would be twice as many Catholics served by half as many priests. Wasn't this growing shortage of clergy something to be worried about?

Some people acted like the Church was about to collapse, but I never thought that way, for two reasons: 1) my trust in God's providence, and 2) something I learned as a transitional deacon in Kenya the summer of 1979.

First, I have a lot of trust in God's providence -- possibly thanks to growing up in a secure, faith-filled home -- and so thankfully, I'm just not much of a worrier.

I knew that if I did God's will, that was all that was required ... and anyway, the results are in God's hands, not mine.

And, second, the parish I served in Kenya my deacon summer had 40,000 Catholics and just two priests -- that would be like having all of Arkansas served by six priests, except territorially the parish was more like the size of Pulaski County [roughly 880 square miles/2,000 square km].

This parish had four churches and 28 chapels where Mass was celebrated at least once every six weeks, run by 32 specially trained catechists who led Communion Services on the Sundays when the priests were celebrating Mass elsewhere. These catechists were like unofficial permanent deacons and were really the backbone of the ministerial life of this huge parish. They also had 32 choirs, one for each church or chapel.

But what most astounded me was that 85 percent of the parishioners were at worship every weekend -- at Mass or at a Communion Service -- all this with just two priests serving 40,000 Catholics. With that, my fear of the American clergy shortage disappeared completely.

If Kenyan Catholics, who have so little, can do so much with a lot of faith and a little creativity, I knew we really didn't have anything to worry about here. If we are faithful and do the best we can, God will provide.
However they're going about it, it's working -- Arkansas' statewide diocese of 112,000 is reporting its biggest contingent in formation since 1966.

History's taught us well, friends, that circuit-riding's never been the end of the project... but, if anything, how it's been born -- or, when necessary, born again.

After all, it did just start with 12, eh?



On this 30th anniversary of the death of the short-reigned "Smiling Pope," B16 recalled John Paul I at today's Angelus:
Pope Luciani, said Benedict XVI, “chose Saint Carlo Borromeo’s Episcopal motto—Humilitas— as his own, a word that sums up that which is essential in Christian life and which indicates the virtue needed by those in the Church who are called to the service of authority.”

“In one of the four general audiences held during his brief pontificate he said among other things and in that very informal way of his: ‘I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, ‘Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart.’ [. . .] Even if you have done great things, say: ‘We are useless servants.’” He noted: ‘On the contrary the tendency in all of us, is rather the contrary: to show off.’” Thus humility can be considered as his spiritual testament.

Thanks to this virtue of his, only 33 days were necessary for Pope Luciani to enter people’s hearts. In his speeches he used examples taken from real life, from his own family memories and from the wisdom of ordinary folks. His simplicity was a tool to formulate solid and vivid teachings which he enhanced by frequent quotes from Church and secular writers that he could recall thanks to an exceptional memory and a vast culture. He was a catechist without equal, following in the footsteps of Saint Pius X, his compatriot and predecessor on the chair of Saint Mark and then Saint Peter. “We must feel small before God,” he said during that same audience. “I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother,” he added; “one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me. These words show the strength of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the Church and the world, let us cherish his example and commit ourselves to the same humility that made him able to speak to one and all, especially to the little ones and the so-called “far away”.
A shooting star on the world stage who publicly admitted to being "confused" by his election, the complete texts of Papa Luciani's days on Peter's chair -- most notably his General Audiences -- are available in English. (The first of the four Wednesday talks provides the backstory to the shot at right.)

Most of them given in his unscripted, folksy style -- among others he drew from were Jules Verne and Dale Carnegie -- they make for quite the read.


Drawn to the Cross

Sure, conflicts might be raging in some corners of the Subcontinent... but even so, this month's feast of the Triumph of the Cross saw yet another trans-faith throng converge on yet another Sri Lankan shrine:
More than 150,000 Buddhists, Catholics and Hindus came to the shrine of the Holy Cross, situated in the middle of a cemetery near the town of Marawila, on Sept. 14....

Many people consider it a place of healing. Pilgrims make vows and give offerings, hoping for the healing of not just sickness or disabilities, but also family problems.

Godfrey Amaratunga, 65, chief administrator of the shrine, says its popularity dates to a reported miracle in 1947. A contagious skin disease was spreading quickly along the coast, and one mother brought her suffering child to the shrine. She is said to have washed the feet of Jesus on the cross, used the water to bathe her child, and then had her child drink the water.

As news spread that the child had been healed, neighbors flocked to the shrine, Amaratunga narrated. Ever since then, devotees have come to apply oil to the feet of Jesus and then apply the oil to their bodies, he said.

A middle-aged Hindu woman who identified herself as E. Uganeswari recounted that a relative's family had a dispute and broke up 20 years ago. But after one of the family members came to the shrine and prayed for some time, the family was reunited.

"From that day onwards, the family members and most of the relatives made it a habit to come to the shrine every year," she continued. "We come here as it is a place we can receive blessings."

She told UCA News that although she is not a Catholic, she comes to the shrine every year. "I came here from Colombo with more than 75 Hindu people for the feast" this year, she said.

A. Selvaratnam, 50, a Hindu priest who also had come from Colombo, called the shrine "a peaceful and powerful place."

He said he has "no misgivings" about going to worship places of other religions and is "happy to come every year with all these people."

Casmira Fernando, 54, a Buddhist, who was kneeling on the sandy floor of the shrine near the beach, said she and her husband, Ajith, have been coming for five years. "I experience a sense of security and unity here, and my husband says his business has grown after coming here and praying," she shared.

According to Father Felix Colombage, the Marawila parish priest, the shrine is open 24 hours a day for pilgrims. "We keep the place as simple as we can and allow all faithful to pray in silence, so they do not disturb others," the priest said.

He welcomes non-Christian pilgrims. "We know that a good number of Buddhists and Hindus come here due to miracles," the priest said, adding that sometimes "they come and meet us" and "we help them with their vows and offerings." However, he qualified, "we never ask them to embrace our religion."

According to Amaratunga, 65, it is not just the feast day when the shrine attracts pilgrims. Almost every Friday thousands gather, "a good number of Buddhists and Hindus among them," he said. "But they do come here and pray. They speak with us and share how they have been healed of serious sicknesses after praying here, and how they have overcome family problems and other problems."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saint Cookie and Uncle Bert, 25 Years On

His administrative acumen might've fuelled his rise in life... but as the quarter-century of his death approaches, it's the sanctity of New York's Cardinal Terence Cooke that leads the story-line.

The seventh archbishop's cause for canonization formally opened in 1992, a St Patrick's Cathedral Mass will be held on the 6 October anniversary of Cooke's passing at 62 after a two-decade battle with leukemia. With Gotham's twelfth ordinary slated to celebrate and preach, among others confirmed for the mid-morning liturgy are two of Cooke's former secretaries, now Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore.

And earlier this week, a much quieter 25th was marked in Red Sox Nation as the Boston church recalled its seventh head, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros:
It was an immense challenge for Cardinal Medeiros to succeed the larger-than-life Cardinal Richard J. Cushing as the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley said.

Cardinal Medeiros took charge of the archdiocese when it was heavily in debt and facing difficult decisions, Cardinal O’Malley said.
“Many times, as I traveled through Latin America and found plaques with the words: ‘Donated by Cardinal Cushing,’ I have been tempted to take a piece of chalk and write: ‘and paid for by Cardinal Medeiros,’” Cardinal O’Malley said.

Speaking to The Pilot before the Mass, Father Carreiro recalled the time as a boy that he met then-Msgr. Medeiros at Fall River’s St. Michael Parish.

“He was the pastor when I received my First Communion and he heard my first confession. It was before Vatican II, but he heard my confession face-to-face as I knelt at the communion rail. I remember his kindness and his understanding, which is so important when you start going to confession.”

It was the example of Cardinal Medeiros that led to his own vocation, Father Carreiro said. The priest entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton during the time Cardinal Medeiros was Archbishop of Boston. “I reminded him who I was and he remembered my family. Afterwards, he would always speak to me in Portuguese.”

The seminary was not immune from the turmoil of Cardinal Medeiros’ tenure, Father Carreiro said. “I read about it in the newspapers and heard it from classmates, but I always knew him as my former pastor. I felt Cardinal Medeiros blocked it out. He never showed the strain.”
An "outsider" described in a recent bicentennial lecture as having -- at least, until his time -- the "most polarizing" of Beantown's legendary episcopal reigns, the Azores-born Medeiros was laid to rest not with his predecessors, nor even in his see, but on his parents' plot in Fall River.

In more uplifting news from Boston (where, like most of the Northeast, participation estimates hover in the 20% range), sign-ups for "Arise" -- the three-year diocese-wide renewal program -- have surpassed expectations.

Yet again, the once-vaunted flagship of Stateside Catholicism leads the way with an important lesson, this time an infinitely more hopeful one: you can get back up... but only after accepting that you're down.

More than just sometimes, especially in this famed, storied corner of the vineyard, that reality can be the toughest pill to swallow. But just like the grain of wheat that bears much fruit, no life nor future can come without the sacrifice of pride that is its humbling, necessary first step.


"Lady Katrina" and the Specter of "Eugenics"

So, Alfie, what's it all about?
[New Orleans] Archbishop Alfred Hughes has denounced a lawmaker's proposal to pay poor people to undergo sterilization as "an egregious affront to those targeted and blatantly anti-life."

"Our lawmakers would do better to focus on policies that promote education and achievement to counteract poverty and the bigotry of low expectations, " Hughes said in a statement Thursday.

Hughes spoke out in response to a proposal by state Rep. John Labruzzo, a Republican from suburban Metairie, to combat poverty by offering poor women and men $1,000 to undergo reproductive sterilization and vasectomies. In addition, the lawmaker said he is considering whether to propose tax incentives for college-educated people to have more children.

Hughes appears to be the first major local clergyman to take a public stand on the issue, which Labruzzo broached Tuesday. Archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey said the Catholic Church would oppose Labruzzo's plan in Baton Rouge if he turns it into legislation.

Hughes based his opposition on two elements of Labruzzo's proposal: the technique of direct sterilization and the underlying purpose of manipulating the birth rate to reduce certain populations as a matter of public policy....

More broadly, the plan "would also constitute a form of eugenics that the church and this country have always condemned," Hughes said.
...meanwhile, as Catholic Charities held its annual gathering in the Crescent City, the continuing fallout of The Storm was tackled by the bench's longtime social justice guru:
Citing the Rev. James Forbes, the retired rector of Riverside Church in New York City, [retired Brooklyn auxiliary] Bishop [Joseph] Sullivan said "Lady Katrina" was "a prophetess who revealed to us the two Americas, the haves and the have-nots, the white America and the America of color."

"Both were affected by the storm," Bishop Sullivan said, "but the America of color much more severely. ... Lady Katrina revealed, as no other event in recent history, the tragic confluence of racism and poverty that exists in our nation's cities."

Katrina was not just a revelation of poverty in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast but "a symbol of what the deeper reality is in the country," Bishop Sullivan said after his talk.

Bishop Sullivan, 78, said while 8 percent of white Americans live below the poverty line, 24 percent of African-Americans, 22 percent of Hispanics and 23 percent of Native Americans are poor. He said the Catholic Charities USA report, "Poverty in America," refers to poverty as an "unnatural disaster" created by individuals and society.

"Lady Katrina challenges us to wake up to acknowledge the reality and injustices of poverty in our country and together with the poor to take action to shape the social and economic policies that will reduce poverty by half by 2020," he said.

"This is not a pipe dream. We have the resources, experience and knowledge to virtually eliminate poverty," he continued. "What we need is the political will."

Bishop Sullivan said it often takes "a storm, a tragedy, a series of shocking events to shake us out of our lethargy."

Although President Johnson's war on poverty in the 1960s has been criticized as ineffective and even wasteful, Bishop Sullivan said it cut poverty in half in the U.S.

Bishop Sullivan praised the regional Catholic Charities staffers in Louisiana and Mississippi for "outstanding" leadership after Katrina and Rita. Catholic Charities agencies across the U.S. raised more than $155 million in humanitarian aid for Katrina victims.

"Some raise the question 'Where was God in this natural disaster?'" he said. "God was in all the good will and practical responses of those who reached out to express their conviction that 'we are our brother's and sister's keepers.'"
* * *
Speaking of hurricanes, hardships and being our brother's keepers, Catholic Charities is reporting "scant" response to its appeal for relief donations following this season's Gustav and Ike.

Among others, the head of Louisiana's Houma-Thibodaux diocese -- where at least 20,000 homes have been damaged, as have close to 90% of its parishes and schools -- has put out a pitch for $10 million to maintain its level of providing needed services, including meals, cleaning kits and gas cards. As schools reopened Thursday in its neighboring diocese of Beaumont -- where a $25 million capital campaign has been suspended for at least a year to focus on rebuilding -- the situation's said to be "in flux" in the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston amid estimates that half of its 151 parish plants sustained "widespread" damage and heavily-hit school communities were temporarily relocated until their buildings could reopen.

Having visited hard-hit Galveston in the days after the storm, while Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said that his "major preoccupation" in Ike's wake was the number of locals enduring "difficulties with gasoline and lack of power," an archdiocesan spokeswoman indicated earlier in the week that there had been "no change" to the cardinal's scheduled commitment to attend the Synod of Bishops on the Word, which begins next week in Rome.

Earlier this year, the first Southern cardinal was elected as one of four delegates to represent the US bishops at the three-week gathering.

PHOTO: Liz Condo/Baton Rouge Advocate(1); Diocese of Beaumont(2)


From the Abuse Desk

Hit last month with a $5 million civil judgment for "fraudulent concealment" of an abusive priest, the diocese of Belleville has moved for a retrial:
Bishop Edward Braxton has directed the diocese's lawyers to ask St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto for a new trial in the 2002 lawsuit brought by James Wisniewski, 47, of Champaign. He alleged he was sexually abused for five years beginning about age 13 as an altar boy at St. Theresa's Parish in Salem in the 1970s. The priest named was the Rev. Raymond Kownacki who was removed from ministry in 1995 by a diocesan review board for sexual abuse of minors.

Kownacki, 73, of Dupo, has stated he will not comment. The motion also asks for a reduction of the $5 million jury award.

In a letter to parishioners to be read at Mass over the weekend, Braxton said that paying the judgment "would diminish diocesan resources and significantly limit the church's ability to continue to serve our people, our parishes (and) our schools. ..."

If Cueto rejects the request for a new trial, the diocese could then appeal to the 5th Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.

Braxton, who was not bishop until 2005, many years after incidents described at trial, said that besides caring for souls, the Gospel "requires me to be a faithful steward of the resources of the diocese."

Representatives for the diocese could not be reached concerning whether insurance would pay for part or all of the judgment.

Belleville attorney Mike Weilmuenster, who represented Wisniewski, said he heard during the trial that the diocese' insurance policy might not apply because church officials covered up the sexual abuse. Weilmuenster said an insurance representative attended the trial. Testimony showed that the diocese earns $3.5 million per year in interest on investments.

Bill Schroeder, a law professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said it is common for trial judges to reduce jury awards "because damages are hard to quantify."

The 49-page new trial motion filed by St. Louis attorney David Wells brings up most trial issues including whether Wisniewski, of Champaign, was barred by time limit rules from bringing the lawsuit.

Testimony that Wisniewski and other youths were sexually abused by Kownacki was unrefuted. Testimony that top church officials including former Belleville Bishop James Keleher knew about Kownacki's sex crimes and continued to transfer him from parish to parish also went unchallenged.

Weilmuenster, who handled the trial along with his partner attorney Steve Wigginton, said: "These are the same arguments they made before and during the trial.

"This is the precursor to an appeal. You file a post-trial motion and once that post-trial motion has been ruled on by the trial court, you have to file a notice of appeal with the appellate court."

Braxton could not be reached for comment. Wells also could not be reached for comment.

Braxton's letter to parishioners also urged them to pray.

"Pray for those who have suffered abuse and for their families. Pray for the people of the diocese who are distressed by these sad events. Pray for the priests who continue to serve you faithfully. Pray for those who have been removed from ministry. And pray for me as well," the letter stated.

Frank Flinn, adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis and author of the Encyclopedia of Catholicism published last year, rejected Braxton's argument against paying the judgment outright.

"It's a false argument," Flinn said, "Had they been genuinely concerned of the finances of the diocese, then the chancellor along with the bishop would have removed this person from his cycle of pedophilia in the first place."

Representatives of the St. Louis-based church watchdog group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also criticized Braxton's decision.

"Rubbing salt into fresh, deep wounds. That's the only way to describe Braxton's selfish decision to appeal this verdict," said Barbara Dorris, the organization's outreach director.

"Braxton should be ashamed of himself, and Catholics should be ashamed of him," she said, adding, " Remember, no one disputes that Kownacki is a serial predator or that Catholic officials knew this, kept it secret, and repeatedly moved him to unsuspecting parishes where he molested again. That's been admitted or proven in court. Braxton's only defense is claiming that 'The victim waited too long.'"

The group's St. Louis executive director, Dave Clohessy, said, " A hostile move like this can either drive deeply wounded victims further into hopelessness or motivate them into coming forward, getting help and exposing predators. We hope victims will choose action over depression."
And elsewhere, in what's become a painful Saturday ritual in the First State -- where a two-year "window" suspending the civil statute of limitations remains open 'til next summer -- the morning news reports that diocese of Wilmington was served with two more cases yesterday, adding to a docket already numbering past 20 suits, all told.

Both alleging abuse by the same priest, who died in 1998, the male plaintiffs claimed that the misconduct took place in two of the cleric's parish assignments in the 1950s.

At his installation earlier this month, the Delaware church's new head, Bishop Fran Malooly, apologized that "the innocence of too many of our diocese’s children was stolen by the very individuals whose duty it was to protect and safeguard it.

Addressing the victims directly, Malooly "apologize[d] for the innocence that was stolen from you by Catholic clergy and others representing our Church."

"You had more than your innocence stolen from you--many of you also had your faith taken away," he said.


Franc Cardinal Rodé, CM
Stonehill College
27 September 2008


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is a great joy for me to meet with you, men and women religious, who have been chosen with eternal and personal love by the Father of all gifts and who have generously devoted your lives to Christ and his Gospel. I address my cordial greeting to all the religious in North America, especially the superiors.

With fraternal affection I greet His Eminence, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and thank him deeply for inviting me to join you in this important gathering.

I come to you, consecrated men and women in North America, as the representative of the Holy Father, bearing his greetings and esteem for the witness of your life and the fruitfulness of the multiple forms of your service to the Church. I come to you as Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the accumulated experience of dealing with the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of consecrated life around the globe. But most especially, I come among you as a brother religious who has experienced the adventure and the turmoil of the renewal of consecrated life called for by the Second Vatican Council. This extraordinary experience has made me who I am and has shaped the words I address to you today with immense affection and hope.


Consecrated Life within the Church and within civil society has never played a secondary or minor role. As Pope John Paul II wrote, “its universal presence and the evangelical nature of its witness are clear evidence — if any were needed — that the consecrated life is not something isolated and marginal, but a reality which affects the whole Church. … In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it ‘manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse.’ … It is an intimate part of her life, her holiness and her mission.”

One can hardly overestimate the importance of consecrated life for the good of the Church and of humanity at large. From the birth of Christianity, some men and women were moved by the Spirit to devote their entire lives to imitating Christ more closely. Their consecration gradually took on the multiple forms we are familiar with today — rules and ways of life that at once express and give continuity to the charisms given by the Spirit.

Even a sketchy overview of history can show abundant evidence that, without the presence and activity of monks and nuns, religious women and men, despite their acknowledged cultural and historical limitations, the history of Western civilization and the evangelization of vast areas of the globe would be immensely poorer.

The history of the Church in the United States of America is rich with the contributions of consecrated men and women who have left an indelible mark on the culture.

During Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in April, in his address to the young people gathered at New York’s St. Joseph Seminary, the Holy Father said, “Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage. The wondrous array of charisms proper to each religious institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury. Indeed, the history of the Church is perhaps most beautifully portrayed through the history of her schools of spirituality, most of which stem from the saintly lives of founders and foundresses.”

The first four figures Benedict XVI proposed to the youth and seminarians in Dunwoodie as exemplary testimony of the Gospel in the lands of the United States, were consecrated: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who in 1679 made a vow of chastity as an expression of consecrated virginity.

Some of the most epic pages in the history of missions were written in this blessed land by the heroic French missionary Jesuits who were martyred in what is now New York State and Ontario, Canada, and by the Franciscans and other missionaries in the South and the West Coast of the United States. It is significant that, in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, various states are represented by religious, such as Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence, Saint Damien of Molokai, Father Eusebio Kino, Father Jacques Marquette and Father Junípero Serra.

In the last two centuries, many religious in the United States have made education their highest priority — an undertaking that, as Pope Benedict pointed out in his recent Address to Catholic Educators in Washington, came at the cost of great sacrifice. “Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected – in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated religious sisters, brothers, and priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.”

In the last forty years, the Church has undergone one of her greatest crises of all times. We all know that the dramatic situation of consecrated life has not been marginal in this state of affairs. In practically all Western countries, observers note that most religious communities are entering the end-game of a prolonged crisis whose outcome, they say, is already determined by the statistics.

In many of these Western countries, religious have lost hope. They are resigned to the loss of vitality, of significance, of joy, of attractiveness, of life. But America is different. The vitality, the creativity, the exuberance that marks the thriving culture of the United States is reflected in Christian life and also in consecrated life. Just think: Since the Second Vatican Council, more than a hundred new religious communities have sprung up in this fertile soil.

This is the country that Pope Benedict visited in April in order to bring the message of the hope of Christ. But when he returned to Rome, he said, "I discovered a tremendous vitality and a decisive will to live and to witness to the faith in Jesus.” With great joy, he confessed that he himself “was confirmed in hope by American Catholics."


Despite this past greatness and present vitality, we know — and it is one of the major reasons we are gathered here today — that all is not well with religious life in America. My remarks today are addressed especially to the active religious.

The sheer decline in the numbers of consecrated men and women, the abandoning of many corporate apostolates and ministries, the closing of communities, the invisibility of corporate witness to consecrated life, amalgamations of provinces, mergers of different institutes, the graying of religious, the death of entire congregations — these realities are all familiar to us.

Under the umbrella of “consecrated life” and behind the statistics there lies a variety of situations.

First, there are many new communities, some better known than others, many of which are thriving and whose individual statistics are the reverse of the general trends.

Second, we have older communities that have taken action to preserve and reform genuine religious life in their own charism; they are also in a growth mode, contrary to the general trend, and their median age is lower than the overall average for religious.

Neither of these two groups sees “the writing on the wall” in the sense that observers of the general trends use it; on the contrary, the future looks promising if they continue to be what they are and as they are.

Third, there are those who accept the present situation of decline as, in their words, the sign of the Spirit on the Church, a sign of a new direction to be followed. Among this group there those who have simply acquiesced to the disappearance of religious life or at least of their community, and seek to do so in the most peaceful manner possible, thanking God for past benefits.

Then, we must admit too, that there are those who have opted for ways that take them outside communion with Christ in the Catholic Church, although they themselves may have opted to “stay” in the Church physically. These may be individuals or groups in institutes that have a different view, or they may be entire communities.

Finally, I would distinguish those who fervently believe in their own personal vocation and the charism of their community, and are seeking ways to reverse the trend. In other words, how to achieve authentic renewal. These may be whole institutes, or individuals, pockets of individuals or even communities within institutes.

My talk today is directed principally toward this last group to offer them encouragement and ideas on a way forward. It may also be of use to the first two groups, lest they lose what they have, according to St. Paul’s advice to the Corinthians: “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall”.

Indeed, the recent instruction from my Congregation on The Service of Authority and Obedience forcefully states that “Persons in authority are called to keep the charism of their own religious family alive. The exercise of authority also includes putting oneself at the service of the proper charism of the institute to which one belongs, keeping it carefully and making it real in the local community and in the province or the entire institute.”

To that end, it will be helpful to examine the roots of the crisis, and here we come face-to-face with a necessary and brutal question: Wasn’t “renewal” precisely what we did after the Council? Wasn’t this going to bring us into a new era? And was it not precisely this “renewal” that has landed us where we are today?

First, a word on the concept of reform itself: As Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote in an insightful essay five years ago, “to reform is to give new and better form to a preexistent reality, while preserving the essentials. Unlike innovation, reform implies organic continuity; it does not add something foreign or extrinsic. Unlike revolution or transformation, reform respects and retains the substance that was previously there. Unlike development, it implies that something has gone wrong and needs to be corrected. The point of departure for reform is always an idea or institution that is affirmed but considered to have been imperfectly or defectively realized. The goal is to make persons or institutions more faithful to an ideal already accepted.”

Reform, therefore, entails identifying three basic elements: 1) something essential to preserve; 2) some way of dealing with what is essential that has gone wrong and needs to be corrected, 3) a new way of dealing with what is essential that has to be implemented.


The Council, in fact, offered clear and abundant guidelines for the needed reform of Consecrated Life. The crucial question is: How were those guidelines interpreted and applied? Overall, the Council in general was interpreted and applied in two very different, opposing ways that we must look at more closely if we are to understand what has happened and map out a course to follow toward the future.

Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church and concretely in religious life, been so difficult and the source of so much turmoil?” asked Pope Benedict in an important speech three years ago.

The answer he offers is deep and crystal-clear. “It all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application.” He continues, “The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and clashed. One caused confusion; the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and continues to bear fruit.

“On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform’, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.”

1. The ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’ described.

In the Holy Father’s analysis, “The hermeneutic of discontinuity is based upon a false concept of the Church and hence of the Council, as if the former were from man alone and the latter a sort of Constituent Assembly. The call to change would be the true “spirit of the Council”, to such a degree that whatever in its documents reconfirms the past can be safely said to be the fruit of compromise and therefore to be legitimately forsaken in favor of the Council’s ‘spirit.’
This spirit that all is new and has to be made new gives rise to the fervid excitement of the explorer, the prospect of stepping courageously beyond the letter of the Council. But the call is so vague that one is immediately left anchorless, a victim of his every whim and rejecting all correction. It is idealistic in so far as it underestimates the frailty of human nature, and it is simplistic in thinking that a Yes to the modern era will solve all tensions and create harmony .
Given these premises, and given also the best of intentions, what calming influence could there be on experimentation, and what principle was there to moderate the tendency to incorporate into religious life the fads and patterns of modern culture?

2. This hermeneutics of rupture has dominated the attempts at renewal of religious life.

There is a fine balance in the Council’s documents, but at the time, given that the mandate was for up-dating, it was easier to justify change than to defend continuity.

Paragraph 2 of Perfectae Caritatis reads, “The adaptation and renewal of religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time.” Read with the hermeneutics of rupture and discontinuity, the “return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes” tended to be interpreted in light of “adaptation to the changed conditions of our time” rather than the other way around.

The following paragraphs of the same document contain phrases quite familiar to us, and only with difficulty do we remember the rest of what the council said:

“…Let constitutions, directories, custom books, books of prayers and ceremonies and such like be suitably reedited and, obsolete laws being suppressed, be adapted to the decrees of this sacred synod” (3). “… to make allowance for adequate and prudent experimentation. … But superiors should take counsel in an appropriate way and hear the members of the order in those things which concern the future well-being of the whole institute” (4).

As we continue reading Perfectae Caritatis, the numbers that follow spell out beautifully the true nature of religious life and are worthy of meditation, but despite their length and density and their appeal to spirituality, prayer, obedience, love, and so on, their fate is sealed once they are read with the hermeneutics of change.

The words appear constantly: “adaptation and renewal” (8), “adapt their ancient traditions” (9), “adapt to the demands of the apostolate” (9), “adjust their way of life to modern needs” (10), “express poverty in new forms” (13). In obedience, “superiors … should gladly listen to their subjects” (14). “The religious habit … should be simple and modest, poor and at the same time becoming. In addition it must meet the requirements of health and be suited to the circumstances of time and place and to the needs of the ministry involved” (17). “…religious must be given suitable instruction … in the currents and attitudes of sentiments and thought prevalent in social life today” (18).

It is true that these are just a few phrases picked arbitrarily from dense paragraphs rich in spiritual doctrine and which emphasize above all the perennial truths of religious life. But many were led to believe that by picking them out, and focusing exclusively on them their efforts for renewal, they were being faithful to the true “spirit” of the Council. Thus rupture and discontinuity as a point of departure become a self-fulfilling prophecy, producing, precisely, rupture and discontinuity.

3. Religious life was not an isolated battle-ground.

“Aggiornamento” was the term in vogue, and meaning “up-dating,” it presupposed something to be brought up to date: It presupposed continuity. What took place was a “pseudo-aggiornamento” that was unrecognizable in Catholic terms.

Operating at the root of this “pseudo-aggiornamento” was what can best be described as “naturalism”. It supposed the radical centering of man on himself, the rejection of the supernatural, and operated in a climate of radical subjectivism.

It showed itself in multiple ways: In talk about holiness that is totally divorced from fulfillment of Christ’s law and the concept of grace. In minimizing sin. In the acceptance of the world as it is, with no need of conversion. In taking the world as the criterion according to which the Church ought to be reformed. In a notion of apostolate or ministry that consists in being at ease in the world rather than changing it. In rejection of authority, and especially divinely constituted authority, hence the rejection of the magisterium and all canonical and disciplinary ordering in the Church.

4. The results of the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture in religious life.

We must begin here by acknowledging that there certainly was much to correct in religious life, much to be improved in the formation of religious. We must also admit that society proposed challenges for which many religious were not prepared. In some cases, routine and crusts of outdated customs needed to be shaken off. In this sense we must affirm categorically that not only was the Council not mistaken in its thrust to renew religious life, it was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit in doing so.

Pope Benedict, speaking to superiors general, said: “In these last years, consecrated life has been re-examined with a more evangelical, ecclesial and apostolic spirit; but we cannot ignore that some concrete choices have not offered to the world the authentic and vivifying face of Christ. In fact, the secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of not a few consecrated persons, who understand it as a way to enter modernity and a modality of approach to the contemporary world. As a result, in addition to an undoubted thrust of generosity capable of witness and of total giving, consecrated life today knows the temptation to mediocrity, bourgeois ways and a consumerist mentality.”

Towards the end of the Second Vatican Council, I was in Paris finishing my doctoral thesis on “miracles of the modernist controversy.” At that time in France there was a pervasive atmosphere of enthusiasm for the Council as the press and other media presented it, which was a partial image of the Council as a “victory of the liberals over the conservatives.”

When I returned to Slovenia I found that the communist regime was isolating the Catholic faithful, suffocating public expression of the faith and reducing it to a merely private affair. I found a faithful people within a society shaped by the ideology of materialism. I soon realized that what I brought with me from my studies in Paris was of very little use for my pastoral work. I needed to be close to the people and to respect the traditional ways of expressing of their faith. I learned so much from the Christian faithful! They taught me to love the Church, to respect the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.

The great lesson I learned from that experience was this: The religious who secularized consecrated life were not doing so for the sake of the faith of the people of God. It was not the good of God’s people that they were seeking. Rather than God’s will, what they were seeking was their own.

Religious life, being a gift from the Holy Spirit to the individual religious and the Church, depends especially on fidelity to its origins, fidelity to the founder, fidelity to the particular charism. Fidelity to that charism is essential, for God blesses fidelity while he “opposes the proud.” The complete rupture of some with the past, then, goes against the nature of a religious congregation, and essentially it provokes God’s rejection.

As soon as naturalism was accepted as the new way, obedience was an early casualty, for obedience without faith and trust cannot survive. Prayer, especially community prayer, and the sacramental liturgy were minimized or abandoned. Penance, asceticism and what was referred to as “negative spirituality” became a thing of the past. Many religious were uncomfortable with wearing the habit. Social and political agitation became for them the acme of apostolic action. The New Theology shaped the understanding and the dilution of the faith. Everything became a problem for discussion. Rejecting traditional prayer, the genuine spiritual aspirations of religious sought out other more esoteric forms.

The results came swiftly in the form of an exodus of members. As a consequence, apostolates and ministries that were essential for the life of the Catholic community and its charitable outreach quickly disappeared – schools especially. Vocations quickly dried up. Even as the results began to speak for themselves, there were still those who said that things were bad because there hadn’t been enough change, the project was not complete. And so the damage was further compounded.

It must further be noted that many of those responsible for the disastrous decisions and actions of those post-conciliar years, later left religious life themselves. Many of you now here are the ones who have remained faithful. With immense courage, you are shouldering the burden of reversing the damage and rebuilding your religious families. My heart and my prayers go out to you.


1. The hermeneutic of continuity and reform described.

The true “spirit of the Council” was described at its inauguration by Pope John XXIII when he said that the Council wishes “to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion.” And he continues: “Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us. It is necessary that adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness be presented in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.”

These words give rise to a very different way of interpreting the Council from what has been described in the previous sections. We have here in essence, the hermeneutics of continuity and reform.

Continuity elicits a harmonious dialogue between faith and reason. Reason, enlightened by the supernatural gift of faith, adheres voluntarily and lovingly to what Pope John XXIII called “the substance of the ancient doctrine” that was revealed by Christ and rightly interpreted by the magisterium with the infallible and constant assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Reason enlightened by faith will not fall into the trap of modern secularism. Authentic prophetism in the Church intends to rectify behavior, not to change the apostolic revelation. Cardinal Avery Dulles explained this point well when he wrote:

“In our day the prevailing climate of agnosticism, relativism, and subjectivism is frequently taken as having the kind of normative value that belongs by right to the word of God. We must energetically oppose reformers who contend that the Church must abandon her claims to absolute truth, must allow dissent from her own doctrines, and must be governed according to the principles of liberal democracy. False reforms, I conclude, are those that fail to respect the imperatives of the Gospel and the divinely given traditions and structures of the Church, or which impair ecclesial communion and tend rather toward schism. Would-be reformers often proclaim themselves to be prophets, but show their true colors by their lack of humility, their impatience, and their disregard for the Sacred Scripture and tradition.”

2. The application and fruits of the hermeneutic of continuity and reform.

Today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council, which provided clear guidelines to distinguish between the substance of the deposit of the faith and its circumstantial manifestations. Continuity with what is essential in religious life does not stifle but rather encourages reform of what is outdated, accidental and perfectible. This is evident when we read the finely balanced criteria and guidelines for renewal in Perfectae Caritatis, numbers 2-18 that we referred to when we spoke about rupture and discontinuity.

When these same numbers are interpreted in terms of continuity, the changes asked for are never disassociated from their roots. Those seeking continuity in renewal will notice that the Council called for a renewal that is eminently a renewal of the spirit, emphasizing the centrality of Christ as he is found in the Gospels, following him on the path envisaged by the founder through the vows (2).

Renewal is to be sought in the more faithful observance of the rule and constitutions (4).
It calls for a religious consecration that means not only dying to sin (baptismal vocation) but renouncing the world and living for God alone, service of the Church and fostering of all the virtues, especially humility and obedience, seeking God alone, joining contemplation to action (5).
The priority of loving God and nourishing one’s life on Scripture and the Eucharist (6).
The Council sees no dichotomy between contemplation and action; the latter springs from the former (7).
The priority of spiritual training if members of secular institutes are to be leaven in the world (11).
Chastity, Poverty, Obedience (12, 13, 14), are all cast in an eminently supernatural light, based on faith, hope and love. The radicality of their implications is clearly laid out.
The need for common life lived in prayer, charity, and mutual support as highlighted in number 15.
Papal cloister should be maintained by nuns dedicated exclusively to the contemplative life (16).
The habit should be adapted, implying it should remain (17).

A number of the better-known new religious orders and movements were already under way at the time of the Council. These invariably examined themselves in the light of the orientations issued by the Council, and were unanimously faithful to its authentic spirit as expressed in the letter of the Council. And the new congregations founded since then also find the key to their own self-understanding in the Council’s doctrine. Though the concept of “renewal” is not applicable to a new group, the element of continuity and the essential elements of religious life as spelled out by the Council has guided these foundations without exception. Is it mere coincidence that they are growing?

The Holy Father summed up the fruits of this hermeneutic as follows:

“Wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.”

We now need to face the question: Where can we go from here? Is there new life for religious communities in North America seeking authentic reform?

Here we must note that, though the background to the problems is the same, and there are common problems and challenges faced by both men and women religious (the engineering of language, the slant toward relativism, the fading of a sense of the supernatural, in some cases doubt about the relevance and centrality of Christ), it is also true that each group faces its own particular challenges. Women religious especially need to engage critically a certain strain of feminism by now outmoded but which still nevertheless continues to exert much influence in certain circles.

Let me focus on some of the common elements. If rupture and confusion are what characterize the recent difficulties in religious life, then the way forward has to be a greater seeking of continuity and clarity. Like the scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven, we should bring from our storeroom both the new and the old.

1. Continuity with the essentials, first of all of our Catholic faith.

It would seem superfluous to make this remark, for one would imagine there is no discussion on this point. However, we have all, sadly, experienced the presence of groups or individuals who, by their own admission, have “moved beyond the Church,” yet remain externally “in” the Church. Surely, such an ambivalent existence cannot bring forth fruits of joy and peace, neither for themselves nor for the Church. We pray that the Holy Spirit will give them the light to see the path to true peace and freedom, and the courage to follow it.

I quote again the instruction on the Service of Authority and Obedience: “Persons in authority have the task of helping to keep alive the sense of faith and of ecclesial communion, in the midst of a people that recognizes and praises the wonders of God, witnessing to the joy of belonging to him in the great family of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The task of following the Lord cannot be taken by solitary navigators but is accomplished in the bark of Peter, which survives the storms; and consecrated persons contribute a hardworking and joyful fidelity to good navigation.32 Persons in authority should therefore remember that “Our obedience is a believing with the Church, a thinking and speaking with the Church, serving through her.”

2. Continuity with the concept of religious life as understood by the Church.

According to the Council, “Church authority has the duty, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of interpreting these evangelical counsels, of regulating their practice and finally to build on them stable forms of living.”

Both Church authority and the tradition of the Church throughout the centuries have spelled out what the substance of consecrated life is. Pope Benedict put it this way: “Belonging to the Lord: this is the mission of the men and women who have chosen to follow Christ – chaste, poor and obedient – so that the world may believe and be saved.”

3. Continuity with the charism of the founder.

This is of capital importance, and a key to renew and revitalize our congregations, attract vocations and fulfill our obligations toward the young people who eventually enter our religious families. The council insists on this. We must ensure that life in our congregations is both fully Catholic and fully in line with the charism of the founder or foundress. There can be no contradiction here, since the charism was given to the founders in the context of the Church, and it was submitted to the approval of the Church. Many congregations are making strenuous efforts in this regard.

However, some religious superiors have found that this is not enough. They are making great efforts to revive the figure and centrality of their founder; they are renewing religious observance and life in their communities; but they say the vocations are still not coming. There are two further, very important elements to take into consideration.

4. The formation of the new generations. The formation program.

In the present circumstances, offering an adequate, faithful formation program is a particularly significant challenge. No individual can do it alone, no individual house can do it, sometimes not even a province; resources are scattered; there may not be much unity or agreement as regards what the substance of formation should be. Nevertheless, this is probably the single most important element that affects the long-term renewal of our congregations and our ability to attract new vocations. Therefore it is essential that it be addressed by all those who desire to see their institutes flourish once more.

I offer some considerations in this regard:

a. It is worth any sacrifice to dedicate to formation the most outstanding of your members. They must be fully in communion with the Church. They must be prudent, eminently spiritual and practical. They must love their congregation and identify with the founder’s charism, have a spiritual love for their charges, be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of young people today, and have the complete support of their major superiors.

b. Postulancy and novitiate programs are easier to cater for, but the challenge is greater as regards the study of philosophy and theology, or other college careers necessary for the apostolate of the members. When it is necessary to have religious study in centers of learning outside the congregation’s own, these must be chosen prudently so that the doctrine the young religious receive will be sure and in depth, and the external circumstances will allow them to live an authentic community and religious life, continuing to cultivate all areas of their formation, including the spiritual, the sacramental and the human.

c. The new vocations should be educated in the light of the rich contributions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as regards understanding the dignity of the human person, the nature of freedom, the nature of the religious dimension of our lives, the need for human formation.

d. They should be imbued with love for their own founder, history, traditions, contributions, and a healthy ambition to serve souls.
e. Fidelity to the spirit of religious life and of one’s institute should not be depersonalized or static. It should rather be creative, capable of finding innovative ways to develop and apply the charism and of reaching out to the new generation of Catholics and to potential members to the institute.

5. Active promotion of vocations.

Vocations are a gift from God, the initiative is completely his. Nevertheless, as is his custom, he normally uses secondary causes and he depends on our collaboration to carry out his plans.

I distinguish two different and complementary ways to promote vocations: One I will call indirect and the other direct. And, counter-intuitively, I think that what I call indirect promotion is actually the more important of the two in the context of the Church today because all of us can engage in it, the whole body of the Church benefits from it, and without it the direct promotion of vocations remains mostly sterile.

“Indirect” promotion is everything that builds up the life of Christ in the Church, and it can be summarized in three dimensions of life: spirituality, catechesis, and apostolate or ministry. And we have to focus these three dimensions to Christian life on the two places that most affect the vocation to consecration: on the family and on the heart, mind and soul of the individual young person.

Very often in our own lives and communities the reason the seed does not bear fruit is not that the ground is rocky or otherwise bad, but that many other concerns clamor for our time and attention. What I mean is, today we are engaged in and worried about many things, like Martha. Committees, conferences, social justice issues, press releases, and such like, clog our calendar. But there is one thing and one thing alone that will ultimately change the world, and that is the inner transformation of the human person through contact with the grace of Christ.

Spirituality is centered not on a vague religious feeling of being right with God and neighbor and having nice experiences in prayer. Its essence is continual conversion, nourished on the sacraments, and the fulfillment of God’s plan for one’s life. It has an objective dimension.

Catechesis is not limited to initial instruction, but is the continued deepening in the riches of our Catholic faith that alone among all religions and all versions of Christianity provides solid and completely satisfying nourishment for the intellect as well as the soul. It is essential that catechesis go hand-in-hand with spirituality, and to be able to give a reason for one’s hope, as Peter said. Witness Pope Benedict.

The third dimension is action, the external living of Christ’s charity that takes one beyond the boundary of his own comfort. For the individual, this is a new experience of Christ. In prayer and the sacraments you are transformed by your contact with Christ, in catechesis your mind is nourished, but it takes the practice of Gospel charity to enter fully into the charity of Christ who didn’t hold onto what he was, but came among us to serve. In doing apostolate you walk as it were “in Jesus’ sandals”.

Using our individual charism, enriching the above with the example and experience of our founders and history, we can all contribute to the renewal of a vigorous, authentic Christian life in all those with whom we are in contact. It will be well worth our while to examine the nature and thrust of every single project we have under way, to look at the use we make of our time and what occupies it, and then to take the time to cleanse and prioritize. And we should also look at the content and quality especially of our youth programs.

I have called this work “indirect” because it prepares the seed-bed of vocations (the family) and the subject of vocations (the individual young person), to have an open and generous disposition toward God’s will (spirituality) to appreciate the greatness and gift of the faith (catechesis) and to be able to sacrifice and give oneself to the call for the good of souls (apostolate).

In those families and in those individual lives is where God will normally plant the seed of a vocation. And this brings us to our next point: direct promotion.

“Direct” promotion of vocations is when we set out to find and encourage those young people God is calling to our own community. It supposes that we truly believe God is working in those souls, and therefore we seek with confidence and don’t get disheartened if success does not come immediately.

We do direct promotion in many ways: We advertize, we speak in schools and colleges, we write, we invite, we offer retreats and “Come and See” programs, and so forth. This must and should continue and increase if possible, using all the means we have at our disposal today.

I believe three elements contribute to making this direct promotion effective:

First, the indirect preparation mentioned above (whether it was done through an apostolate or ministry of one’s own community, or another community or ecclesial movement, or in the individual’s home parish).

Second: What we offer must be genuine. In other words, the community life and formation I invite this young person to, must reflect the particular charism of my religious family and be in full, joyful communion with the Church.

Lastly, the vocations promoter must be equipped humanly, intellectually and spiritually for his or her delicate task.


It should not surprise us that the road ahead is fraught with challenges and difficulties. However, I want you to be sure of my complete support for any honest effort to renew individual religious families along the lines of fidelity to the Church and to the founder. Much honesty, humility, courage, open-mindedness, dialogue, sacrifice, perseverance and prayer will be needed, for as Pope Benedict reminded us, “Jesus warned us that there are two ways: one is the narrow way that leads to life, the other is wide that leads to destruction” (cf. Matthew 7:13-14).

You are justly proud of the religious and civic heritage of North America, and you are aware of the impact that life here has on the world at large. The Catholic Church, as evidenced by the receptivity of civic and social leaders to the message of Pope Benedict, is called to enrich and enlighten consciences and thus give a stable foundation to society, being a true leaven in the mass. And the renewal of the Church in this great country, and her ability to serve, necessarily passes through the renewal of religious life.

One of the sources of my hope is the experience I had of the power of communion with the Holy Father. In communist Slovenia, people were afraid to speak out against the regime, for fear of reprisals. One month after the election of John Paul II, I was giving a speech in the theology faculty of Ljubljana University before a crowd of 1,200 people. The theme was “Christianity in Slovenia Yesterday and Today.” I surprised myself by making a radical critique of the communist regime and demanding the rights of Christians. The speech ended in a thunder of applause such as had not been heard in Slovenia for 40 years.

The communist ideology commission called a hasty meeting to discuss how anybody could dare to speak out in such a way. They concluded that it must be the effect of the new Pope. And they were right. John Paul had given us courage. I knew that from then on, despite the consequences, I would never be afraid to speak the truth. This incident taught me the spiritual, psychological and pastoral value of fidelity to the Holy Father. That is why I am convinced that if we adhere to what John Paul II taught us yesterday and what Benedict is teaching us today, we will emerge from the crisis of consecrated life into a new springtime of renewal in consecrated life in America.

Thank you, brothers and sisters, for your gift of self to Christ and humankind, for your testimony and your work, and not least of all for your patience and kindness in listening to my words today.

Let me now end with a prayer taken from the Opening prayer and the Prayer after Communion of the Mass for Religious in the Roman Missal:

“Father, you inspire and bring to fulfillment every good intention. Guide your people in the way of salvation and watch over those who have left all things to give themselves entirely to you. By following Christ and renouncing worldly power and profit, may they serve you and their brothers faithfully in the spirit of poverty and humility. Make them one in their concern for each other and in their common dedication to the works of charity. By their holy way of life may they be true witnesses of Christ to all the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.”