Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beati Quorum Via....

“Since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you.
I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century.  
What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness. 
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend.
God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.
--Pope Benedict XVI
Greeting to Catholic Students of the United Kingdom
St Mary's College, Twickenham
17 September 2010


After the Storm, "Our Hearts Are Broken"

Much as today was supposed to bring the Halloween Story into print, suffice it to say, the scenes and stories 'round these parts seem to make for quite enough horror for this year on their own. What's more, with a good quarter or so of our normal crowd seemingly still without power or otherwise out of range, it just feels better to not do it without 'em. (Once you're back up, please send word.)

In any event, clad in an FDNY jacket bearing his name while leading the spiritual response to the superstorm that's ravaged much of the Mid-Atlantic, the Cardinal-President took to Fox News this morning with his impressions....

In light of the continuing difficulty of getting around across much of the 10-county archdiocese of New York, in a statement released this morning, Tim Dolan dispensed the 2.5 million-member church from tomorrow's obligation to make Mass for All Saints' Day, "advising people only to [attend] if safety is not at risk."

"Yes we've got so much to pray for," the cardinal said, "as we mourn our dead, pray for their families, and for those injured, and without homes. We also pray in thanksgiving for the heroic service of so many entrusted with our protection. Praise God that, once again, this community has united in selfless service to those in need."

*    *    *
Across the Hudson, meanwhile, having already weathered one storm over recent weeks – the release of a 16-page pastoral letter on marriage which stoked considerable debate among his 1.3 million-member fold (and, per usual for the moment, drew a retort from his Episcopal counterpart) – Archbishop John Myers was still hunkered down in his residence at Newark's cathedral rectory which, like 95 percent of Jersey's largest city, remained without power for a third day. (Located within the Newark archdiocese – by land area, the US' smallest local church – a scene from Hoboken is shown above.)

Regardless, the Garden State metropolitan – who marked his silver jubilee as a bishop last month – used the remainder of his quickly-draining cellphone battery to fulfill a previously-scheduled commitment to appear on today's edition of Relevant Radio's morning show, during which Myers talked the storm's impact on his end:

And perhaps most prominently of all, at the close of today's General Audience at the Vatican, the Pope said that "Conscious of the devastation caused by the hurricane which recently struck the East Coast of the United States of America, I offer my prayers for the victims and express my solidarity with all those engaged in the work of rebuilding."

Perhaps with Sandy in mind, Vatican Radio reported that, as the pontiff looked out on the St Peter's Square crowd huddled under umbrellas amid Rome's October rain season, he couldn't help but remark off-the-cuff that "It could be worse."

PHOTO: Doug Mills/Pool(1);AP(2) 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Taken at the site of a devastating Sandy-stoked fire that wiped out as many as 80 homes, a scene from Breezy Point, Queens.



In Sandy's Wake

First, and most importantly: everybody OK out there?

Much as the storm still seems to be wreaking havoc inland, all's kept fairly clear on this end – the office is dry, power and 'net blessedly stayed up, and the sum total of "damage" appears to be a lot of leaves outside, with a few twigs.

Clearly, broad swaths of the landscape haven't been that lucky; the shot above comes from the northern tip of our clan's beloved Shore town, where those houses are supposed to overlook the water. (For the River City expats out there, you'll understand well that the development which caused the greatest panic 'round these parts yesterday was when a good many Wawas were temporarily shut down.) Elsewhere, the usual morning numbers here appear to be down by about a quarter, likely due to the power outages said to be affecting some 7 million here in the Northeast.

Bottom line: keep safe, folks – just hang in there and don't go anywhere you don't urgently need to.

More soon, but in the meanwhile, should any ecclesial entity in the impacted zone need to get messages out and circulated quickly, this space is yours, so just send word.

PHOTO: Dale Gerhard/Atlantic City Press


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quote of the Day

“Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to the Father and communion with weak sinners is the same sacrifice that the baptized are asked to offer as a gift to the world. This is so because we have received his life in baptism. And in every Eucharistic memorial of Christ's sacrifice, we are taken up into its life-giving power so that we can share it for the life of the world. 
It is ironic, however, that during the public ministry of Jesus, he was not always perceived as someone who offered a sacrifice pleasing to God. Instead of being praised for being obedient, he was frequently accused of transgressing the law of God. No wonder, some people attributed his miracles to the power of the prince of demons rather than to Divine intervention. His critics even took his repeated claims of oneness with God as blasphemy rather than as revelation of God's truth. 
They concluded that God was as displeased with him as they were. He was dangerous for the nation and the Temple. For indeed Jesus' sacrifice of obedience took on a seemingly disobedient or irreverent expression. It is interesting to note that quite often, Jesus was denounced as a violator of God's law when he showed compassion for the weak, the poor, the sick, the women, and public sinners. He offered new life to those considered impure by eating and mingling with them. He assured them that God was not distant and there was hope in God's loving mercy. 
But he himself got no mercy from his adversaries, only ridicule for disobeying laws that were supposed to embody God's will. Jesus suffered on account of his self-offering for those loved by God. But he never wavered in his sacrifice. In the process he exposed the false gods that people worshipped, erroneous notions of holiness and the blindness of righteous people to the visitations of God. Jesus' sacrifice uncovered the link between the worship of false gods and insensitivity to the needy.
An idolater easily loses compassion for the weak. Though he was judged, Jesus was the one actually judging the untrue worship that kept people blind and deaf to the true God and the poor. The Church that lives the life of Christ and offers his living sacrifice cannot run away from its mission to unearth the false gods worshipped by the world. How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self-interests. 
To keep these false gods, their worshippers sacrifice other people's lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of "progress"? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security? 
The Church however must also constantly examine its fidelity to Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to God and compassion for the poor. Like those who opposed Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we could be blind to God and neighbors because of self-righteousness, spiritual pride and rigidity of mind. Ecclesiastical customs and persons, when naively and narrowly deified and glorified, might become hindrances to true worship and compassion. I am disturbed when some people who do not even know me personally conclude that my being a bishop automatically makes me closer to God than they could ever be. My words are God's words, my desires are God's, my anger is God's, and my actions are God's. If I am not cautious, I might just believe it and start demanding the offerings of the best food and wine, money, car, house, adulation and submission. 
After all, I am "God!" I might take so much delight in my stature and its benefits that I might end up being callous to the needs of the poor and the earth. I remember an experience in the market of our town of Imus, the seat of our diocese. One Saturday morning I went to monitor the prices of goods and the condition of the simple market vendors. I saw a woman selling fruit and vegetables in a corner. She was one of those who went to Sunday Mass regularly. It was only 10 o'clock in the morning but she was already closing her store. So I asked her the reason. She told me, "I belong to a prayer group. We have a big assembly this afternoon. Some tasks were assigned to me. So I want to be there early."  
Upon hearing this, the pragmatic side of me surfaced. I responded, "The Lord will understand if you extend your working hours. You have a family to support. You can benefit from additional income. I am sure the Lord will understand." With a smile, she said, "But Bishop, the Lord has been faithful to me. The Lord has always been there for us. We may not be rich but we have enough to live by. Why will I fear?" Then looking at me tenderly, she said, "Are you not a bishop? Are you not supposed to be encouraging me in faith?" I was quite embarrassed. But for me it was an experience of spiritual worship. I, the religiously and culturally accepted presence of God was revealed to be a faltering representation of God. 
That simple woman, offering herself to God in trust for love of her family, became for me the manifestation of the presence of God. She had brought the Eucharistic sacrifice and Jesus' spiritual worship from the elegant Cathedral to the noise and dirt of the marketplace. God must have been well pleased.
–Luis Antonio Tagle
Bishop of Imus (2001-2011)
Catechesis at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress
Quebec City
20 June 2008
*   *   *
Of course, now as archbishop of Manila, the voice behind the lines above will receive the red hat on 24 November as the widely-tipped "star" of the next intake into the Pope's "Senate" – becoming, at 55, the youngest cardinal in the Latin church.

Lest anybody could use some storm-watching that doesn't involve looking outside, here's the fullvideo of the Quebec talk – the soon-to-be Cardinal Chito's first major turn on global Catholicism's main stage....


Into the Storm....

So, church, much as a Sandy wind – and rain, and Lord knows what else – prepares to bear down outside, when it comes to the tumult of ensuring these pages' future, none of us are off the hook just yet. 

(At least, that's the case unless some 500 of this crowd should be expected to carry the full load for a reader-base that – on a "normal" day – measures roughly 30 times that.... 'Round these parts, see, the church has its own name for that kind of dynamic: "closed parish.")

With the downpour just beginning, for what it's worth, it's the intent that as long as the power stays up on this end, so will the shop... and should a blackout come, contingency plans to keep plugging along – both on "Page One" and along the right sidebar here (which you do read, right?) – are already in place. 

Among other things, this'll hopefully be the year the long-held "Halloween Story" finally makes its way into print. If the office gets flooded again, however, the clean-up clearly has precedence... to say nothing of a lot of griping.

Whatever happens, as always, the result will be here for free on this side of the template. Like everything behind the scenes, though, the work involved in pulling it off is anything but cheap. 

To give just one current example, the tab for switching to a much friendlier/more convenient platform for audio files – crucially, one able to accommodate the needed bandwidth for this readership's size – would run just shy of $1,000 a year. Hopefully the plan won't have to be nixed on funding grounds (read: lack thereof)... if that turns out to be the case, though, the scribe wouldn't be the one to blame.

Bottom line: unlike the weather, it bears reminding that what comes next is anything but beyond this crowd's control – as always, the future's fully in your hands....

As ever, all thanks, and back to it. 

Most of all, though, to everybody else hunkered down in the Storm-Zone, be safe and take care of yourselves... for all the rest beyond, please give us the kindness of your prayers....

...and with thanks to an unsung guru of the New Evangelization, here, the new Missal's Collect for moments of this sort:

O God, to Whose commands
all the elements give obedience,
we humbly entreat You,
that the still of fearsome storms
may turn a powerful menace
into an occasion for us to praise You.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God,
for ever and ever.

Hang in there, folks – let's make the best of it.


"Let Us Put Away All Blindness To the Truth"

“The new evangelization applies to the whole of the Church’s life. It applies, in the first instance, to the ordinary pastoral ministry that must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord’s day to be nourished by his word and by the bread of eternal life. I would like here to highlight three pastoral themes that have emerged from the Synod. The first concerns the sacraments of Christian initiation. It has been reaffirmed that appropriate catechesis must accompany preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The importance of Confession, the sacrament of God’s mercy, has also been emphasized. This sacramental journey is where we encounter the Lord’s call to holiness, addressed to all Christians. In fact it has often been said that the real protagonists of the new evangelization are the saints: they speak a language intelligible to all through the example of their lives and their works of charity. 
Secondly, the new evangelization is essentially linked to the Missio ad Gentes. The Church’s task is to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ. During the Synod, it was emphasized that there are still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel. So we must ask the Holy Spirit to arouse in the Church a new missionary dynamism, whose progatonists are, in particular, pastoral workers and the lay faithful. Globalization has led to a remarkable migration of peoples. So the first proclamation is needed even in countries that were evangelized long ago. All people have a right to know Jesus Christ and his Gospel: and Christians, all Christians – priests, religious and lay faithful – have a corresponding duty to proclaim the Good News. 
A third aspect concerns the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism. During the Synod, it was emphasized that such people are found in all continents, especially in the most secularized countries. The Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful. Besides traditional and perennially valid pastoral methods, the Church seeks to adopt new ones, developing new language attuned to the different world cultures, proposing the truth of Christ with an attitude of dialogue and friendship rooted in God who is Love. In various parts of the world, the Church has already set out on this path of pastoral creativity, so as to bring back those who have drifted away or are seeking the meaning of life, happiness and, ultimately, God. We may recall some important city missions, the “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, the continental mission, and so on. There is no doubt that the Lord, the Good Shepherd, will abundantly bless these efforts which proceed from zeal for his Person and his Gospel. 
Dear brothers and sisters, Bartimaeus, on regaining his sight from Jesus, joined the crowd of disciples, which must certainly have included others like him, who had been healed by the Master. New evangelizers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ. And characteristic of them all is a joyful heart that cries out with the Psalmist: “What marvels the Lord worked for us: indeed we were glad” (Ps 125:3). 
Today, we too turn to the Lord Jesus, Redemptor hominis and lumen gentium, with joyful gratitude, making our own a prayer of Saint Clement of Alexandria: “until now I wandered in the hope of finding God, but since you enlighten me, O Lord, I find God through you and I receive the Father from you, I become your coheir, since you did not shrink from having me for your brother. Let us put away, then, let us put away all blindness to the truth, all ignorance: and removing the darkness that obscures our vision like fog before the eyes, let us contemplate the true God ...; since a light from heaven shone down upon us who were buried in darkness and imprisoned in the shadow of death, [a light] purer than the sun, sweeter than life on this earth” (Protrepticus, 113: 2 – 114:1). Amen.
–Pope Benedict XVI
Homily at the Closing Mass
of the XIII General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
on the New Evangelization "for the transmission of the Christian Faith"
St Peter's Basilica
28 October 2012
*    *    *
...and, well, that's a wrap.

As the last three weeks have been rather eventful, though – and, at least in some parts, the coming storm offers some time to brush up – lest anyone could use a quick recap on the highlights of the now-concluded Synod, here's a month's worth of fulltexts or reports on the event's earlier key moments (in chronological order):
PHOTOS: Reuters(1); Mazur/


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Last Call In the Aula: At Synod's End, The Pope Shifts Chairs

Even if it doesn't formally wrap up until morning with a closing Mass in St Peter's, the work of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization reached its close today with the assembly's last business session... and a noteworthy comment from the Pope before his final homily tomorrow.

In impromptu remarks to the gathering, B16 announced a small, but significant shift of functions within the Roman Curia, transferring the Vatican's oversight of seminaries – held until now by the Congregation for Catholic Education – to the auspices of the Congregation for the Clergy, while the latter's longtime authority over catechetical programs and materials will be given to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (PCPNE), which Benedict established in 2009.

The decision is notable on several fronts. For starters, it defies the traditional understanding of the hierarchy of the Roman dicasteries, where – as a general rule – executive authority over matters of the church's internal life is held (and, on a cultural level, jealously guarded) by the nine congregations, while the newer pontifical councils (the so-called "new Curia" established following Vatican II, now numbering 12 offices) do not exercise governance, but instead promote initiatives and conduct dialogue with constituencies that fall outside the Holy See's realm of direct control. (Accordingly, part of PCPNE's competence to date has been and remains the promotion of the now 20 year-old Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first universal text of its kind since Trent.) The move likewise provides policy reinforcement to a key Vatican message-point of recent years: namely, that seminaries aren't just schools that happen to produce priests, but institutes whose mission must be permeated by the unique goal of the formation they're tasked with providing.

Perhaps most pointedly, though, while the decision to entrust oversight of catechesis to the New Evangelization arm helps to further define the raison d'etre of an office whose mission – much like the concept it covers – has largely become interpreted in the eye of the beholder, the desk-shuffling is likely to fuel a long-standing criticism voiced by some top prelates: namely, that official efforts toward a fresh evangelization push end up placing their emphasis on a re-proposal of church teaching at the expense of a primary focus on the "living encounter with Christ."

In a 2007 comment – made before Benedict called him to Rome as head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson lamented the evolution of the European church on precisely that point, likewise terming it a "caution" for the booming African flock.

Himself the son of a Methodist minister, Turkson said that "Christianity in Europe started on an evangelistic base then developed a catechetics base. And it never found its way back to being evangelical.

"The early years of the church were all based on evangelisation. When the [institutional] structures began to evolve and develop it became catechetical, notional – you teach people certain things, they can repeat them, then you baptise them. The emphasis on the thrust of evangelization – provoking conversion in people – and helping people find a real relationship with a personal God – that gradually was missed out."

Another lead exponent of the theory – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin – has been characteristically more blunt.

In an assessment likely applicable to much of the Western church, Martin said in a 2011 lecture in Washington that "young Irish people are among the most catechized and the least evangelized."

"Unless we address" the divide, Martin warned that "we're not going to have a next generation of young Catholics."

At least in the past, Benedict has conceded as much himself. 

In his first address to the newly-formed PCPNE in May 2011, the reigning Pope reprised the stirring summons from Paragraph 41 of Paul VI's charter document on evangelization, 1976's Evangelii Nuntiandi: "It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the church will evangelize the world: in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world; in short, the witness of sanctity.”

*     *     *
Elsewhere in his brief Synod talk, the Pope took the unusual step of explaining his rationale to elevate six new cardinals next month, making 2012 the first time since 1929 that two consistories will take place in the same calendar year.

Acknowledging the raft of criticism over the composition of the last two intakes into his "Senate" – both featuring what were widely perceived as "excessive" blocs of Italians or Europeans in general, with a disproportionately high Curial contingent – Benedict said that calling the 24 November rites with a list devoid of any European designates was intended to "complete the Consistory of February, in the context of the new evangelization, with a gesture of the universality of the church, showing that the church is the church of all peoples, she speaks in all languages, she is always a church of Pentecost; not the church of one continent, but a universal church."

While the fifth consistory of this pontificate – the smallest since 1977 – is indeed heavily weighted toward the East with the elevation of two heads of self-governing Oriental churches, it bears noting that another of the group who's been a lead voice at this Synod was conspicuously left off the list: the de facto patriarch of the largest Eastern fold, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev, head of the world's 6 million Ukrainian Greek-Catholics.

Elected to the post in a stunning decision early last year by his church's own Synod, much as it's indeed true that Shevchuk's predecessor still enjoys a conclave vote, the titanic Cardinal Lubomyr Husar "ages out" on turning 80 early in 2013. 

Then again, even for the Ukrainian church's high profile, it's not as if Benedict's under a pressing time-constraint: while the head of the India-based Syro-Malankara church, Cardinal-designate Baselios Cleemis, will become the youngest red hat at 53, Shevchuk doesn't turn 43 until next May, and is bound to become the first papal elector born after Vatican II in the not-too-distant future.

For purposes of context, the American hierarchy has yet to see the "1970 barrier" broken by any bishop, let alone the leader of the bench.

Regardless, as yet another sign of his continually rising stock, Shevchuk got a prominent nod from the Aula at this Synod's close, earning a spot on the 15-prelate General Council that'll continue the gathering's discussions and work following the event's close.

Other members elected to the top-shelf group include Cardinals Donald Wuerl of Washington (this assembly's lead spokesman), Timothy Dolan of New York, Christoph Schönborn OP of Vienna and George Pell of Sydney, the now officially omnipresent Cardinal-designate Chito Tagle of Manila, and two key Italian archbishops: the star theologian Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto and Rino Fisichella, the PCPNE president, and thus the Vatican's chief full-time hand on the New Evangelization project.

*    *    *
Lastly, as ever, one Synod's end portends thoughts of its successor. 

As the gathering on the New Evangelization was announced at the close of the last gathering of the world's bishops – the 2010 regional assembly for the Middle East – there could be some news on the next Synod tomorrow. Or, perhaps, not. 

For now, don't bet the house either way. Still, as this has been the fifth Synod of Benedict's seven-year pontificate, however, perhaps it's a good moment to recall its predecessors: 2005's on the Eucharist (albeit largely arranged under John Paul II), the Word of God in 2008, Africa in 2009 and the MidEast the following year – in other words, three focused on general topics, two dedicated to geographic areas. 

As it's no secret that the current pontiff takes his Synods with a particular sense of seriousness, even as the winds are tilting toward another region-based choice, whatever B16 decides will speak volumes on the Pope's mind and emphases for the mid-range future... and, by extension, those of no shortage of the church he leads.


Friday, October 26, 2012

The Church "Is Called to Something New" – On the New Evangelization, The Synod's Last Word

Much as the gathering formally wraps up with a Sunday morning Mass in St Peter's, shortly after Roman Noon this Friday, the closing message of the Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization was released to the entire church.

Prepared by a a ten-member group – chaired by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence, aided by a top-shelf committee including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and the "Thrilla from Manila," now Cardinal-designate Chito Tagle – the statement (directed, as always, "to the People of God") stands separate from the Apostolic Exhortation which, in due course, will serve as the Pope's definitive take on the three-week event. 

To aid the document's preparation, the final Propositions of the Synod – formulated from its initial interventions and the subsequent small-group discussions – are still being discussed and voted on by the whole assembly in its final working sessions.

Likely to be released in a year to 18 months' time – the venue for its signing yet unknown – B16's concluding text is set to become the charter document of his pontificate's key priority for the Western church.... 

In the meanwhile, here in full, the Synod's last word.

*    *    *
Brothers and sisters,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). Before returning to our particular Churches, we, Bishops of the whole world gathered by the invitation of the Bishop of Rome Pope Benedict XVI to reflect on “the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”, wish to address all of you spread throughout the world in order to sustain and direct the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in the diverse contexts in which the Church finds herself today to give witness.

1. Like the Samaritan woman at the well
Let us draw light from a Gospel passage: Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (cf. John 4:5-42). There is no man or woman who, in one's life, would not find oneself like the woman of Samaria beside a well with an empty bucket, with the hope of finding the fulfillment of the heart's most profound desire, that which alone could give full meaning to existence. Today, many wells offer themselves to quench humanity's thirst, but we must discern in order to avoid polluted waters. We must orient the search well, so as not to fall prey to disappointment, which can be disastrous.

Like Jesus at the well of Sychar, the Church also feels obliged to sit beside today's men and women. She wants to render the Lord present in their lives so that they could encounter him because he alone is the water that gives true and eternal life. Only Jesus can read the depths of our heart and reveal the truth about ourselves: “He told me everything I have done”, the woman confesses to her fellow citizens. This word of proclamation is united to the question that opens up to faith: “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” It shows that whoever receives new life from encountering Jesus cannot but proclaim truth and hope to others. The sinner who was converted becomes a messenger of salvation and leads the whole city to Jesus. The people pass from welcoming her testimony to personally experiencing the encounter: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world”.

2. A new evangelization
Leading the men and women of our time to Jesus, to the encounter with him is a necessity that touches all the regions of the world, those of the old and those of the recent evangelization. Everywhere indeed we feel the need to revive a faith that risks eclipse in cultural contexts that hinders its taking root in persons and its presence in society, the clarity of its content and its coherent fruits.

It is not about starting again, but entering into the long path of proclaiming the Gospel with the apostolic courage of Paul who would go so far as to say “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Throughout history, from the first centuries of the Christian era to the present, the Gospel has edified communities of believers in all parts of the world. Whether small or great, these are the fruit of the dedication of generations of witnesses to Jesus – missionaries and martyrs – whom we remember with gratitude.

Changing societies and cultures call us to something new: to live our communitarian experience of faith in a renewed way and to proclaim it through an evangelization that is “new in its ardor, in its methods, in its expressions” (John Paul II, Discourse to the XIX Assembly of CELAM, Port-au-Prince, 9 March 1983, n. 3) as John Paul II said. Benedict XVI recalled that it is an evangelization that is directed “principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life... to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favor the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life”(Benedict XVI, Homily for the Eucharistic celebration for the solemn inauguration of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, 7 October 2012).

3. The personal encounter with Jesus Christ in the Church
Before saying anything about the forms that this new evangelization must assume, we feel the need to tell you with profound conviction that the faith determines everything in the relationship that we build with the person of Jesus who takes the initiative to encounter us. The work of the new evangelization consists in presenting once more the beauty and perennial newness of the encounter with Christ to the often distracted and confused heart and mind of the men and women of our time, above all to ourselves. We invite you all to contemplate the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enter the mystery of his existence given for us on the cross, reconfirmed in his resurrection from the dead as the Father's gift and imparted to us through the Spirit. In the person of Jesus, the mystery of God the Father's love for the entire human family is revealed. He did not want us to remain in a false autonomy. Rather he reconciled us to himself in a renewed pact of love.

The Church is the space offered by Christ in history where we can encounter him, because he entrusted to her his Word, the Baptism that makes us God's children, his Body and his Blood, the grace of forgiveness of sins above all in the sacrament of Reconciliation, the experience of communion that reflects the very mystery of the Holy Trinity, the strength of the Spirit that generates charity towards all.

We must form welcoming communities in which all outcasts find a home, concrete experiences of communion which attract the disenchanted glance of contemporary humanity with the ardent force of love – “See how they love one another!” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7). The beauty of faith must particularly shine in the actions of the sacred Liturgy, above all in the Sunday Eucharist. It is precisely in liturgical celebrations that the Church reveals herself as God's work and renders the meaning of the Gospel visible in word and gesture.

It is up to us today to render experiences of the Church concretely accessible, to multiply the wells where thirsting men and women are invited to encounter Jesus, to offer oases in the deserts of life. Christian communities and, in them, every disciple of the Lord are responsible for this: an irreplaceable testimony has been entrusted to each one, so that the Gospel can enter the lives of all. This requires of us holiness of life.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And as our Red Dawn Special Edition continues, much as this morning's Big News came as quite the "October Surprise," it bears recalling that the ability to lay out the scene in real-time and full-context is only made possible by means of this readership's support.

Today's coverage is coming your way thanks to an encouraging start toward keeping these pages from being forced to close. That doesn't mean we're out of the woods just yet, though... and with a consistory now on-deck, what's now become an even more eventful month on the beat – not merely in Rome, either – is only just beginning. 

Ergo, if you'd like to see the coverage keep coming your way as you've come to expect it here, as ever, to degree to which it'll happen isn't this scribe's call, but yours:

To everyone who's already lent a hand over these days, again, all thanks. Even if the first one's just starting to make the rounds, you might well find a fresh added briefing on the incoming Scarlet Crop – and what it means for the church beyond – at some point soon. 

Either way, for now, back to the mines.


The Red Hat 101

And so, with an eye to the rites now called for 24 November, first, a reminder of what the "red hat" moment looks like...

For its significance, however – in anything but electing the next Pope... yet so much more – we'd be remiss to look to any other but The Great One.

Despite being absent from the Synod, the cardinal-archbishop of Toronto arguably remains the premier figure of the New Evangelization in the English-speaking church. In that light, shortly after his February elevation, Tom Collins gave the following catechesis explaining the role – and what it means well beyond a new cardinal – at his boyhood parish:

VIDEOS: Centro Televisivo Vaticano(1); Salt+Light(2)


On Consistory Eve, Back to "College"

While the Main Event – the "Consistory of Creation" itself – has been called for November 24th, it's worth noting that, per usual, the entrance of six new cardinals into the Pope's "Senate" is likely to begin a day earlier with another edition of the now-traditional daylong meeting for prayer and consultation B16 has invariably elected to hold with his closest advisors, cardinals-designate and those older than 80 included.

As they've been carried out in the past, the sessions – which run into the night in the Vatican's Synod Hall – focus on a handful of specific topics of the pontiff's choosing. At the gathering before February's consistory, Benedict upended Vatican protocol by tapping one of the incoming class, now Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, to give the day's keynote on the topic of the New Evangelization. Prior cardinals-only meetings have focused on topics ranging from sex-abuse in the church and international religious freedom to an idea for extending the retirement age for bishops, which – five years after it was taken up – remains fixed at 75.

As a matter of practice, the entire College of Cardinals is summoned to Rome for the reception of new members into the "world's most exclusive club." Barring reasons of illness or other inability to travel, all the world's 200-plus red-hats are expected to attend.

As Dean of the College prior to becoming the post's first holder to ascend to the papacy since the 1600s, Benedict presided over the daily General Congregations of all the cardinals which governed the church between the death of Blessed John Paul II and the 2005 Conclave. The key conclusion of the sessions was that the group – who John Paul only convoked for actual discussion on just six occasions spread over his 27-year reign (the last in 2001) – didn't know each other terribly well.

Clearly, the Consistory Eve sit-downs are a reflection of Benedict's intent to remedy that; in a marked contrast from his predecessor, the coming "pre-consistory" would stack up as the the College's fifth meeting for talks in Joseph Ratzinger's seven-year pontificate.

Given the Pope's age and increasing signs of a physical slow-down, even if it hasn't happened twice in the same year since 1929, it's indeed very possible that B16's desire to quickly re-convoke the group which will elect his successor that they might increasingly size each other up provides a key to this morning's surprise announcement.

On the ritual side, meanwhile, while the new intake's formal celebrations will close with the traditional Mass of Thanksgiving concelebrated by Benedict and the new class on the 25th – the feast of Christ the King – it bears recalling that, per the revised liturgical norms for the creation rites first used earlier this year, the Neo-Porporati will receive both their scarlet birette and the freshly-redesigned cardinal's ring (right) within the context of the Public Consistory itself. (For most of the post-Conciliar period, the ring had previously been "consigned" at the next day's Mass, apart from the red hat itself.)

Even if their names were disclosed this morning as intended nominees to the College of Cardinals, the designates announced today bear none of the rights or privileges of the office – above all, the right to elect a Pope – until the Consistory itself takes place.

PHOTOS: Reuters(1,2); The Catholic Register(3)


Bright Lights, Big Consistory

To provide an added flavor of the two marquee members of the incoming class of the College of Cardinals, here, a June talk on clergy sex-abuse in the church given at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin by Cardinal-designate Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila:


And from a USCCB-organized conference on international religious freedom held just last month in Washington, a briefing on the situation in Nigeria from Cardinal-designate John Onaiyekan of Abuja (who appears at the 4:30 mark):


The first head of an African diocese given the red hat since the consistory of 2010, since his appointment to the new Nigerian capital in 1994, the 68 year-old prelate – long a high-profile figure on the Roman scene – has presided over a growth that's seen the Abuja church go from some 30,000 members at the time of his arrival to over 550,000 today.

Notably as well, the first red hat for Abuja – a city only made an archdiocese on Onaiyekan's appointment, and established as a diocese just five years before that – marks a shift in the hierarchy of Africa's largest country, whose prior cardinalatial seat had been at the former capital, Lagos, which remains its largest city. 

With the nod, come next month's consistory Nigeria will likewise have two resident cardinals for the first time in its history – after a tenure spanning a remarkable five decades, Cardinal Anthony Olunbumi Okogie (elevated by John Paul II in 2003) retired from the Lagos seat this past summer; at age 76, however, the nation's senior red-hat retains a vote in a conclave for another four years. 
In his intervention at the ongoing Synod for the New Evangelization, amid years of sectarian violence between his homeland's predominantly-Muslim north and Christian south (an outbreak which has included several bombings of churches, even within recent weeks), Onaiyekan took to the floor "to stress" that "despite the impression often given by the world media... Christians in Nigeria do not see themselves as being under any massive persecution by Muslims."

Citing Nostra Aetate – the Vatican II decree on relations with other religions – the now cardinal-designate said that "the differences between Islam and Christianity are not negligible. But there are also broad areas of common grounds [sic]. 

"The new evangelization," Onaiyekan told the Synod, "will entail working together for the promotion of commonly shared values, in a world that is very much in need of such values."

On a side-note, while Nigeria already has two papal electors as of today, the country's best-known ecclesiastical export – global Catholicism's now-retired top liturgist, Cardinal Francis Arinze (right, in a classic shot) – has spent the last quarter-century in the Roman Curia. 

A convert who was long viewed as Africa's top papabile during the twilight years of the reign of John Paul II, Arinze's 80th birthday next week opens one of the two voting seats whose occupants will "age out" over the next month, their places quickly to be filled by members of the college's new intake. 

The other seat undergoing rapid turnover is that of the retired Vatican Peace Czar Cardinal Renato Martino, who marks his 80th on the day before the November 24th consistory.

All that said, for a consistory whose sole Curial designate is American, perhaps it's even more intriguing to consider the one name that's especially – perhaps even historically – conspicuous by its absence: the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who by long-standing Vatican tradition would've been expected to hold the biglietto's top slot.


B16 Presents: The "Chito Consistory"

As this morning's word came "out of the blue" and the traditional lead-in wasn't able to be run in advance, well, better late than never....

On a history note, today's shock announcement of a consistory a month from today to elevate six new cardinals marks the first time since 1929 that the Pope's "Senate" will see two separate intakes within the same calendar year. 

At the same time, there was an even shorter interval – all of three and a half months – between two groups created by Blessed John XXIII in December 1959 and March 1960.

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That said, consistories are never about the past, but the future... and as each one tends to have its "star," it's a pretty obvious call that the coming intake will be decidedly Chito-centric.

Named to his post a year ago last week, the singing, weeping, bike-riding and YouTubing 55 year-old head of Asia's largest diocese – a member of the progressive-leaning "Bologna school" team of Vatican II historians – clearly hasn't been dubbed the "golden child" for nothing... 

...and in his first comments following the news, Cardinal-designate Luis Antonio Tagle (Pron.: "Tahg-lay") of Manila quickly took to Vatican Radio to reiterate his Synod call for the church to be something better than "a triumphalistic, a 'know-it-all' type of institution."

*    *    *
Even if Tagle is a decorated doctoral alum of the Catholic University of America in Washington – where the Asian "star" studied under Fr Joe Komonchak – on a note closer to home, with the elevation of Cardinal-designate James Harvey after 15 years at the helm of the Papal Household, for the second time in B16's pontificate, the prelate given the first slot on the biglietto (literally, the "ticket" into the College) will be an American. 

With the 63 year-old Milwaukee native's transfer to the basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls – the first American ever to hold one of the "Big Five" posts in the Secretariat of State – the job of a overseeing a papal court that's fallen under scrutiny in the wake of the "Vatileaks" fiasco likewise opens up, prompting a heady succession stakes all its own. (The cardinal-to-be is shown left welcoming Barack Obama to the Apostolic Palace on the President's July 2009 visit to the Pope.)

In a first, meanwhile, alongside his ordination classmate – now the church's "chief justice" – on Harvey's impending elevation, two Roman cardinals will have come from Wisconsin roots.