Monday, December 31, 2012

The Gate of the Year

As another civil year reaches its end, let's bring the curtain down on 2012 with the church's age-old tradition for New Year's Eve – thanks for the cycle just past, our lot's great song of praise....

Closer to home, meanwhile, as at least some of this crowd are aware, in the streets around the shop the joyful noise is just slightly different, and doesn't get going until sunrise tomorrow:

...and, of course, release the wenches:

While much of the world might be back in the saddle on Wednesday, lest it wasn't already clear from the preceding, not this part.

Lastly for now, it bears recalling that, as ever, the Catholicverse's 2013 begins with a prayer for peace – tomorrow marks the 46th World Day of Peace, instituted by the newly-Venerable Paul VI in 1968. 

Ergo, to bring the two traditions together, church, let us pray....

In 2013 and always, folks, may each and all of you, those you love and those you serve know every gift of grace, joy, health and goodness. May our longing world find ever more the gift of peace... and most of all, may we work to attain the blessings of peace and unity within this splintered, wounded Body.

Buon Anno a tutti... Feliz Año Nuevo a blessed and Happy New Year from our home to yours!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Born Is The King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*    *    *
And with that sung, a simple word for this Holy Night and the days beyond:

To one and all, your loved ones and all those you serve, every wish for a joyous, blessed and Happy Christmas, and all its light, peace and new life on this Day and always. 

To no end, folks, thanks for making these pages part of your days – and especially in this hardest of years, for all your goodness, friendship, prayers and encouragement, which mean the world more than this scribe could ever sufficiently express. Know how much you're all especially in my prayers and heart on this Holy Night and over these days to come.

*   *   *
Lest we be remiss, a couple house favorites for the occasion....



On a housekeeping note, meanwhile, in the hope of enjoying some much-needed downtime with the clan and the rest, the shop will be on hiatus until after New Year's. Especially where it's needed most, may all of us know new life from the gift of beautiful moments and the closeness of those we love over the Octave and Season ahead.

For now, this Christmas' Last Word can only come from one place – the beloved, heroic voice who, over 26 years, likely narrated this Night to more souls than any other since the Evangelists themselves....

Buon Natale a tutti – to one and all, again, a beautiful, blessed and Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 24, 2012

"Let Us Go Joyfully to Bethlehem"

24 DECEMBER 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendor of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.

I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for him. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Savior: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendor of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.

Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honor in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practice violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace.

Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Savior, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings.

Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.

Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great “crossing over” to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbors: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.

PHOTO: Reuters


Sunday, December 23, 2012

O Emmanuel....

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

O Rex Gentium....

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

O Oriens....

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

"The Fundamental Themes of This Moment" – From "Gender" to Evangelization, B16's "State of the Church"

The address that's become his annual summary of the year's major events and, on the broad level, his assessment of the "joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties" of today's church – at least, as judged by its earthly head – here's the full English text of Benedict XVI's Christmas message to the Roman Curia, delivered within the hour.

*   *   *
Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is with great joy that I meet you today, dear Members of the College of Cardinals, Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governorate, for this traditional event in the days leading up to the feast of Christmas. I greet each one of you cordially, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his kind words and for the warm good wishes that he extended to me on behalf of all present. The Dean of the College of Cardinals reminded us of an expression that appears frequently during these days in the Latin liturgy: Prope est iam Dominus, venite, adoremus! The Lord is already near, come, let us adore him! We too, as one family, prepare ourselves to adore the Child in the stable at Bethlehem who is God himself and has come so close as to become a man like us. I willingly reciprocate your good wishes and I thank all of you from my heart, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the generous and competent assistance that each of you offers me in my ministry.

Once again we find ourselves at the end of a year that has seen all kinds of difficult situations, important questions and challenges, but also signs of hope, both in the Church and in the world. I shall mention just a few key elements regarding the life of the Church and my Petrine ministry. First of all, there were the journeys to Mexico and Cuba – unforgettable encounters with the power of faith, so deeply rooted in human hearts, and with the joie de vivre that issues from faith. I recall how, on my arrival in Mexico, there were endless crowds of people lining the long route, cheering and waving flags and handkerchiefs. I recall how, on the journey to the attractive provincial capital Guanajuato, there were young people respectfully kneeling by the side of the road to receive the blessing of Peter’s Successor; I recall how the great liturgy beside the statue of Christ the King made Christ’s kingship present among us – his peace, his justice, his truth. All this took place against the backdrop of the country’s problems, afflicted as it is by many different forms of violence and the hardships of economic dependence. While these problems cannot be solved simply by religious fervour, neither can they be solved without the inner purification of hearts that issues from the power of faith, from the encounter with Jesus Christ. And then there was Cuba – here too there were great liturgical celebrations, in which the singing, the praying and the silence made tangibly present the One that the country’s authorities had tried for so long to exclude. That country’s search for a proper balancing of the relationship between obligations and freedom cannot succeed without reference to the basic criteria that mankind has discovered through encounter with the God of Jesus Christ.

As further key moments in the course of the year, I should like to single out the great Meeting of Families in Milan and the visit to Lebanon, where I consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation that is intended to offer signposts for the life of churches and society in the Middle East along the difficult paths of unity and peace. The last major event of the year was the Synod on the New Evangelization, which also served as a collective inauguration of the Year of Faith, in which we commemorate the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, seeking to understand it anew and appropriate it anew in the changed circumstances of today.

All these occasions spoke to fundamental themes of this moment in history: the family (Milan), serving peace in the world and dialogue among religions (Lebanon) and proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ in our day to those who have yet to encounter him and to the many who know him only externally and hence do not actually recognize him. Among these broad themes, I should like to focus particularly on the theme of the family and the nature of dialogue, and then to add a brief observation on the question of the new evangelization.

The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. It was noticeable that the Synod repeatedly emphasized the significance of the family as the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence. This is something we learn by living it with others and suffering it with others. So it became clear that the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human. The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his “I” ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.

At this point I would like to address the second major theme, which runs through the whole of the past year from Assisi to the Synod on the New Evangelization: the question of dialogue and proclamation. Let us speak firstly of dialogue. For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions. In all these dialogues the Church speaks on the basis of the light given her by faith. But at the same time she incorporates the memory of mankind, which is a memory of man’s experiences and sufferings from the beginnings and down the centuries, in which she has learned about the human condition, she has experienced its boundaries and its grandeur, its opportunities and its limitations. Human culture, of which she is a guarantee, has developed from the encounter between divine revelation and human existence. The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria. Yet just as an individual without memory has lost his identity, so too a human race without memory would lose its identity. What the Church has learned from the encounter between revelation and human experience does indeed extend beyond the realm of pure reason, but it is not a separate world that has nothing to say to unbelievers. By entering into the thinking and understanding of mankind, this knowledge broadens the horizon of reason and thus it speaks also to those who are unable to share the faith of the Church. In her dialogue with the state and with society, the Church does not, of course, have ready answers for individual questions. Along with other forces in society, she will wrestle for the answers that best correspond to the truth of the human condition. The values that she recognizes as fundamental and non-negotiable for the human condition she must propose with all clarity. She must do all she can to convince, and this can then stimulate political action.

In man’s present situation, the dialogue of religions is a necessary condition for peace in the world and it is therefore a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue of religions has various dimensions. In the first place it is simply a dialogue of life, a dialogue of being together. This will not involve discussing the great themes of faith – whether God is Trinitarian or how the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures is to be understood, and so on. It is about the concrete problems of coexistence and shared responsibility for society, for the state, for humanity. In the process, it is necessary to learn to accept the other in his otherness and the otherness of his thinking. To this end, the shared responsibility for justice and peace must become the guiding principle of the conversation. A dialogue about peace and justice is bound to pass beyond the purely pragmatic to an ethical quest for the values that come before everything. In this way what began as a purely practical dialogue becomes a quest for the right way to live as a human being. Even if the fundamental choices themselves are not under discussion, the search for an answer to a specific question becomes a process in which, through listening to the other, both sides can obtain purification and enrichment. Thus this search can also mean taking common steps towards the one truth, even if the fundamental choices remain unaltered. If both sides set out from a hermeneutic of justice and peace, the fundamental difference will not disappear, but a deeper closeness will emerge nevertheless.

Two rules are generally regarded nowadays as fundamental for interreligious dialogue:

1. Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelization, from mission;
2. Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other.

These rules are correct, but in the way they are formulated here I still find them too superficial. True, dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at better mutual understanding – that is correct. But all the same, the search for knowledge and understanding always has to involve drawing closer to the truth. Both sides in this piece-by-piece approach to truth are therefore on the path that leads forward and towards greater commonality, brought about by the oneness of the truth. As far as preserving identity is concerned, it would be too little for the Christian, so to speak, to assert his identity in a such a way that he effectively blocks the path to truth. Then his Christianity would appear as something arbitrary, merely propositional. He would seem not to reckon with the possibility that religion has to do with truth. On the contrary, I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.

Finally, at least a brief word should be added on the subject of proclamation, or evangelization, on which the post-synodal document will speak in depth, on the basis of the Synod Fathers’ propositions. I find that the essential elements of the process of evangelizing appear most eloquently in Saint John’s account of the calling of two of John the Baptist’s disciples, who become disciples of Jesus Christ (1:35-39). First of all, we have the simple act of proclamation. John the Baptist points towards Jesus and says: “Behold the Lamb of God!” A similar act is recounted a few verses later. This time it is Andrew, who says to his brother Simon “We have found the Messiah” (1:41). The first and fundamental element is the straightforward proclamation, the kerygma, which draws its strength from the inner conviction of the one proclaiming. In the account of the two disciples, the next stage is that of listening and following behind Jesus, which is not yet discipleship, but rather a holy curiosity, a movement of seeking. Both of them, after all, are seekers, men who live over and above everyday affairs in the expectation of God – in the expectation that he exists and will reveal himself. Stimulated by the proclamation, their seeking becomes concrete. They want to come to know better the man described as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist. The third act is set in motion when Jesus turns round, approaches them and asks: “What do you seek?” They respond with a further question, which demonstrates the openness of their expectation, their readiness to take new steps. They ask: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus’ answer “Come and see!” is an invitation to walk with him and thereby to have their eyes opened with him.

The word of proclamation is effective in situations where man is listening in readiness for God to draw near, where man is inwardly searching and thus on the way towards the Lord. His heart is touched when Jesus turns towards him, and then his encounter with the proclamation becomes a holy curiosity to come to know Jesus better. As he walks with Jesus, he is led to the place where Jesus lives, to the community of the Church, which is his body. That means entering into the journeying community of catechumens, a community of both learning and living, in which our eyes are opened as we walk.

“Come and see!” This saying, addressed by Jesus to the two seeker-disciples, he also addresses to the seekers of today. At the end of the year, we pray to the Lord that the Church, despite all her shortcomings, may be increasingly recognizable as his dwelling-place. We ask him to open our eyes ever wider as we make our way to his house, so that we can say ever more clearly, ever more convincingly: “we have found him for whom the whole world is waiting, Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and true man”. With these sentiments, I wish you all from my heart a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Lights, Please?"

Amid this longest night of the year – and especially for anyone out there who's gotten sidetracked by the "holiday" frenzy – let's all take a minute to breathe, look just ahead, and get ready where it counts most....


O Clavis David....

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

"To Engage the World," B16 Takes Christmas to the Financial Times

In a "willing" response to what even the Vatican termed an "unusual request," the salmon-pink comment pages of today's Financial Times feature an op-ed written by the Pope.

Kept behind a paywall for visitors to the London daily's website, the text of the column was released at Roman Noon by the Holy See.

Here's the full piece, preceded by the Vatican's explanatory note:
The Pope's article for the "Financial Times" (December 20, 2012) originates from a request from the editorial office of the "Financial Times" itself which, taking as a cue the recent publication of the Pope's book on Jesus' infancy, asked for his comments on the occasion of Christmas.
Despite the unusual nature of the request, the Holy Father accepted willingly.
It is perhaps appropriate to recall the Pope's willingness to respond to other unusual requests in the past, such as the interview [sic] given for the BBC, again at Christmas a few months after his visit to the United Kingdom, or the television interview for the programme "A sua imagine" produced by the RAI, the Italian state broadcasting company, to mark the occasion of Good Friday [2011]. These too have been opportunities to speak about Jesus Christ and to bring his message to a wide forum at salient moments during the Christian liturgical year.

       A time for Christians to engage with the world

"Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes. His questioners, of course, were laying a trap for him. They wanted to force him to take sides in the highly-charged political debate about Roman rule in the land of Israel. Yet there was more at stake here: if Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah, then surely he would oppose the Roman overlords. So the question was calculated to expose him either as a threat to the regime, or a fraud.

Jesus’ answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth. His audience needed to be reminded that the Messiah was not Caesar, and Caesar was not God. The kingdom that Jesus came to establish was of an altogether higher order. As he told Pontius Pilate, "My kingship is not of this world."

The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message. Jesus was born during a "census of the whole world" taken by Caesar Augustus, the Emperor renowned for bringing the Pax Romana to all the lands under Roman rule. Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the Empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time.

Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir, but the liberation he brought to his people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.

The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience. At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?

Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the Child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognize God made Man.

It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or the Stock Exchange. Christians shouldn’t shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.

Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life. Christians work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of a belief that, as stewards of God’s creation, we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable. Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. Christian belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.

Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful cooperation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the Emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the last century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated world-view. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.

In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love. He brings hope to all those who, like himself, live on the margins of society. He brings hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world. From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of good will can help to build here on earth.
While the PopeTree was already lit last week in St Peter's Square, the full-bore rites of Vatican Christmas get underway tomorrow morning as B16 offers his annual Yuletide "greeting" to the Roman Curia – an occasion the pontiff has repeatedly employed to deliver his assessment on the "State of the Church."


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Radix Iesse

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O Adonai

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free....

Monday, December 17, 2012

O Sapientia

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

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


O Great Mystery....

Sure, Advent's last lap might just be getting underway tonight... especially after the darkness of the last few days, though, it doesn't feel like "cheating" to have an early taste of what the End Zone sounds like....


Quick as it's come again, here it is.... Blessings on your home-stretch, folks.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Comfort Ye, My People...."

Much as the shop was planning to have something duly Gaudete-ous up and out for this Third Sunday of Advent, needless to say, gang, not now.

Before all else, church, our task instead is to carry the many broken hearts among us as our own – above all, wherever we are, to pray right alongside them and, wherever possible, to do what we can to help them (and whatever the reason, any others we find) with everything that's in us. 

In and around Newtown, Connecticut and everywhere beyond where yesterday's cascading shatteredness has ricocheted, we all seek the same things, yet especially in this hour: the same goodness, the same strength and blessed comfort of the same God... and for those of us who are able, may we know the grace to bring these any and everywhere they're needed today, tomorrow and over the days ahead. 

Even more than they were at yesterday's dawn, gang, these have become days of grief, anxiety, longing and a desperation for that Light which can only come from above. And yet, even now, It Will – but even more than just a day back, it's on us to do our part to make it happen.

Wherever we are, God help us in this task... and amadísima Virgen de Tepeyac – Mother of all America – fold those who need it most en el hueco de tu manto, that they might know the best of grace and care in this dark, brutal hour.

Today and always, may the story that defines who and what we are be the courage, consolation and hope of the world around us... and along those lines – much as it's an Advent tradition 'round these parts (and even if it ran here early some weeks back) – here, the full performance of Handel's Messiah, as given by the choir and orchestra of New York's Trinity Church:


Tenemos El Cristal

Brutal as this Friday's been across the board, perhaps it's best to end it with a reminder that – as B16's inaugural homily put it – "la iglesia está viva... y la iglesia es joven": "the church is alive, the church is young."

If demographics ruled the day, those words have little right to be said in English on these shores... but, well, consider it a gesture of affirmative action.

For now, linguistic realities aside, four days after Bishop Kevin Vann took the reins of the 1.3 million-member diocese of Orange – by population, the most significant handover of a Stateside slot in 2012 – mil gracias to an OC op for capturing the scene below earlier tonight as an almost all-Latin crowd turned out for the community's beloved Advent rite of Las Posadas, along the way taking de facto possession of the diocese's soon-to-be seat, the celebrated Crystal Cathedral....

En algunas partes de nosotros, pero, muchos de estos todavía busquen posada en el corazon de la iglesia en esta tierra... ¿y porque es esto?

Esta noche, mañana y siempre, que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe, Madre de Nuestra Esperanza y Nuestro Futuro como una Familia de Dios – that is, together, one family of God – en este país... 

...y más de toda otra cosa, Virgencita, como Madre que ama tus hijos, cubre especialmente con tu manto los muchos que sufren hoy entre nosotros, que los encuentren una cascada de amor, consuelo, y cada gracia en tu abrazo del cielo. 

Concédeles de tu Hijo para ellos... y todos nosotros. Amén.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

La Fiesta del Norte

For anyone who loves American Catholicism and seeks its brightest future, simply put, there's no happier, more electric day than this.

Even if the PopeTweet's made for something of a bipolar 24 hours, in reality even that latest 12 December development is just part of a piece – and to miss the context behind it is to have missed the whole point of a tablet-tap in Rome early this morning.

Closer to home, meanwhile, the coverage ain't done by any means – we've still got the night round of prayer, song and dance (and flowers... and even fireworks) still to go. For the meanwhile, some clips from the day that was on these shores, just in case anybody happened to miss it.

En primer, a Los Ángeles, a medianoche....

...y la catedral-santuario del mismo a esa hora:

A Anderson, en la Carolina del Sur:

A Brooklyn...

...y Nueva York:

A Chicago:

A Austin:

Y en lleno, la vigilia de las mañanitas... en Indiana:

In keeping with tradition, each of the preceding events ostensibly took place between 10pm and 5am local time.

FOTO: del Santuario de Des Plaines, Ill./via TweetingPriest


Continua El "Super Tazón"

Ahora regresamos a la fiesta más grande de la Fe en este país, ya en progreso....

O en inglés: We now return to American Catholicism's "Super Bowl" – the biggest feast of the nation's largest religious body – already in progress....

(Anoche en Filadelfia, Calle 18.... Sí.)

Y más tarde, mucho más....

Querida Virgen, Madre de toda America, Patrona de la Nueva Evangelización en todo el mundo, gracias por tu regalo de una nueva vida para la Fe entre nosotros, y para esta iglesia en esta tierra. ¡Feliz cumpleaños!


#HabemusPapam – @Pontifex Tweets

Lest anybody missed it, video of this morning's Big Moment, introduced in the Audience Hall with the words "Ed ora, il Santo Padre invierà il suo primo tweet" – 

"And now, the Holy Father will send his first tweet"....

As the message read in English:

In the minutes surrounding the launch, the eight language feeds for the PopeTweets surpassed a combined million followers, two-thirds of whom have signed onto the English-speaking account. 

Three questions submitted to Benedict using the tag #AskPontifex were to be released and answered this afternoon.

Notably, among other top prelates present for this morning's General Audience was Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the church's first red-hat to set up a blog shortly after his  2006 elevation, and now likewise a member of the Twitterverse @CardinalSean. 

Along with several other Stateside prelates – and another Eminent Technophile, Toronto's Cardinal Thomas Collins – the Capuchin is in Rome for the Ecclesia in America conference arranged by the Knights of Columbus to mark today's 15th anniversary of the closing of the 1997 Synod for this continent. (Another of the US delegation is Lincoln's freshly-installed and now tweeting @bishop_conley.)

And for the backdrop, as B16 noted to even the Italian pilgrims on-hand, "Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the New Evangelization." 

That one of the lay staff flanking the @Pontifex wore a scarf bearing the image of Juan Diego's tilma while a Mexican group in the crowd sang "La Guadalupana" as Benedict thanked his helpers after tapping the iPad all served to perfectly round out the moment.

SVILUPPO: Shortly before 1pm in Rome (7am Eastern), the first question and answer rolled out....

Its sender going unnamed, the query asked "How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?"

Benedict's reply: "By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need."

At 3pm Rome (9am ET), the second PopeTweet Q&A was posted – this time, the questioner asked "How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?

Taking up 133 characters, @Pontifex replied that "We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful."

PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano(1), Reuters(2); VIDEO: The Holy See/Vatican Player


¡Que Viva la Virgen!

  (de Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Padre de Misericordia, que has puesto a este pueblo tuyo bajo la especial protección de la siempre Virgen María de Guadalupe, Madre de tu Hijo, concédenos, por su intercesión, profundizar en nuestra fe y buscar el progreso de nuestra patria por caminos de justicia y de paz.  
Por nuestro Señor Jesucristo, tu Hijo, que viva en re contigo en el Espiritú Santo, es Dios, por los siglos y de los siglos.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Big Dance Begins

...and so, church, away we go – bienvenidos a un otro año del "Super Tazón" del catolicismo en este país:

(de Appleton, Wisconsin – domingo, 9 de diciembre 2012.)


In the Twitterverse, @Pontifex Eve

With seemingly the whole world gone a-Twitter about it over the last week, even as this is the night that rocks the Stateside church into a new epoch, of course, sunrise tomorrow brings the formal debut of a tweeting Pope.

Launching his eight language feeds under the handle @Pontifex, Benedict XVI is expected to answer several questions from the tens of thousands submitted from around the world – and hit the "send" button on 140-character replies – at the close of the Wednesday Audience, which should come around noon in Rome (6am Eastern).

The Vatican's video-player will stream the event, which should be available on-demand shortly after its end.

The venture heralded by a massive amount of interest in the global press, as of this Rollout Eve, the pontiff's combined feeds have amassed a total of just under a million followers.

What much of the attention's missed, however, is the rationale behind the choice of the launch-date – the feast of a "native" Madonna who, by clothing herself in the culture of the people, catalyzed the most sweeping cycle of conversion in Christian history.

Then again, this is just the latest instance of the patronal feast of the Americas being marked in Rome with a higher profile than it continues to have across much of the US church.

What questions will be answered in the morning are anyone's guess... on the latter front, though, the message would already seem sent.

Among other recent ecclesial entries into the Twitterverse, Madison's Bishop Robert Morlino (@BishopMorlino) and the already-blogging Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa (@ArchTerentius) jumped in shortly after last week's Vatican announcement.