Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron calls 'Hunger Games' movie dangerously prophetic


The following comes from the CNA:

Father Robert Barron says the storyline in the blockbuster film “The Hunger Games,” based on the widely popular young adult book, warns of what can happen when a society becomes totally secularized.

“There is something dangerously prophetic about 'The Hunger Games,'” said Fr. Barron, founder of the media group “Word on Fire” and host of the PBS-aired “Catholicism” series.

The movie, which has already brought in $214 million worldwide since its March 23 release, is based on the young adult book of the same title by Suzanne Collins.

Set sometime in the undefined future, “The Hunger Games” tells the story of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen's struggle for survival after she volunteers to take her sister's place in her country's annual “hunger games.”

Ruled by the wealthy and authoritarian Capitol, the impoverished Twelve Districts within the country must annually offer its children as tributes to take part in a live television broadcast of an arena battle to the death. The gruesome killings between the children serve as a reminder of the Capitol's absolute power and as punishment for the Districts' failed rebellion decades earlier.

However, as the events in the arena unfold, Katniss and her teammate Peeta begin to rise against the Capitol through attempting to maintain their humanity.

In a March 29 interview with CNA, Fr. Barron said he thought the movie contained elements of modern French philosopher Rene Girard's theory of “human scapegoating.”

He explained that scapegoating has been used throughout history as a means of discharging “all of our fears and anxieties” by assigning blame to an individual or group of people.

This practice is seen as far back in history from civilizations such as the Aztec and the Roman empires and as recently as Nazi Germany.

However, Fr. Barron said, Christ undid the need for humanity's scapegoating by taking on the role of victim himself in his Passion and Resurrection.

“The Hunger Games” shows not only “how very consistent this theme is in human history” and in “human consciousness,” but also what can happen in a totally secular society.

“When Christianity fades away,” Fr. Barron said, “we're in great danger because it's Christianity that holds this idea at bay.”

Just as Christ's sacrifice was the ultimate “undermining” of humanity's scapegoating, Fr. Barron noted Peeta and Katniss' defiance in the arena is a disruption of human sacrifice in their own culture.

“Christianity,” the priest said, “is the undoing of the scapegoating mechanism which lies behind most civilizations.”

Some critics have said that the book's plot is too graphic for the young adult audience at which it is targeted because it focuses on children killing other children. As a result, much of the child-on-child combat is toned down in the movie.

Youth violence is unfortunately a “human reality,” Fr. Barron said, “it's called war.”

Although he does not think violence should be shown just for entertainment value, Fr. Barron said he thought that “there wasn't enough violence” in “The Hunger Games.”

He understood why the producers would want to make the film more age appropriate, “but there's something about revealing to people what's at stake here that I think is important.”

Muting much of the teen killings “was a bit of a weakness” on the part of the film makers, he added, because “it's actually good to let this violence be seen for what it really is.”

The film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens.”

Friday, March 30, 2012

Peace of Christ by Rich Mullins

Benedict XVI meets his 'spiritual Godmother' in Santiago de Cuba

The following comes from the CNA:

After beginning his day on Tuesday with a private Mass in Santiago de Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI met a religious sister from India who has been his “spiritual Godmother” for 20 years.

The Pope celebrated the private Mass during his historic March 26-28 visit to the country before departing for the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. The service was attended by 10 religious sisters from the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity, which was founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

When the Mass ended, Cuban Archbishop Dionisio García, presented Sister Teresa Kereketa to the Pope. Following the practice of her order, 20 years ago she received the task of praying daily for a specific priest, thus becoming his “spiritual Godmother.” The priest whom she was assigned was Cardinal Josef Ratzinger.

During the emotional encounter, and following an Indian tradition, the sister presented a crown of flowers to Pope Benedict. 

“The Pope was quite moved meeting her,” said Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, during a press conference.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons

Pope Benedict's Message to Cuba touches hearts


The following comes from the CNA:

The words of hope delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the people of Cuba at a March 28 Mass are inspiring Latin Americans from countries across the region.

Nadia Martínez de Pimentel told CNA that the Mass was an “overwhelming experience.”

Originally from the Dominican Republic, she said that she was deeply touched to see the “resilience of the people of Cuba” and the faith they have exhibited despite numerous challenges.

“I think that just to be part of it is a very humbling experience,” she said.

Officials predicted a turnout of more than half a million people at the Papal Mass in Revolutionary Square in Havana, Cuba on March 28, which came on the final day of the Pope's visit to the country.

During his homily, Pope Benedict applauded steps that have been taken in Cuba “to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly.”

He urged the nation to “continue forwards” and encouraged the government to “strengthen what has already been achieved.”

The Pope told the people of Cuba that the “path to a true social transformation” requires the formation of “virtuous men and women” who can help to “forge a worthy and free nation.”

“Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity,” he explained.

The Pope’s message made an impression not only on Cubans, but on members of other Latin American nations as well.

Pilgrims from countries including Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic flocked to Cuba to participate in the papal events that took place March 26-28.

Diana, age 20, said that she came to Havana from Mexico because she wanted to “hear the message of faith” that the pontiff was bringing to Cuba.

Although the Pope just concluded a visit to her home country of Mexico, she followed him to Cuba in order to immerse herself even further in his words to Latin America.

Diana called it “amazing” that she was able to see and listen to the “representative of God on earth.”

“You get to know another country through this experience,” she observed, adding that she believes her participation in the papal events “will bring me closer to Christ.”

For pilgrim Ramon Tallaj, the Pope’s message “is clear.”

Tallaj, a Latino who lives in the United States, explained that “the Holy Father came to tell the people about hope.”

Even in the most oppressing circumstances, people need not lose hope if they can turn to their faith, he said, because ultimately “that is what matters.”

Tallaj believes that apart from politics, faith and religion are “important for the human being.” Although religion can be a force for social change, he added, any movement must begin with a profound renewal of faith.

Ultimately, Tallaj thinks Pope's visit will have a long-lasting effect in bringing about true change for the people of Cuba. “Now it is confirmed,” he said. “This truly is a revolution square.”

Fr. Barron comments on A Great Time to Be a Priest

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pope Benedict's Address to the Young in Guanajuato, Mexico

Below the full text of Pope Benedict’s discourse to young people in Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato:

Dear Young People,
I am happy to be able to meet with you and to see your smiling faces as you fill this beautiful square. You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart. And in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this, especially those who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger, which in recent months, because of drought, has made itself strongly felt in some regions. I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song. Today we are full of jubilation, and this is important. God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and he loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.


This place where we stand today has a name which expresses the yearning present in the heart of each and every person: “la paz”, Peace. This is a gift which comes from on high. “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21). These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew in this place, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered his life.


The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations.


I have come that you may know my affection. Each one of you is a gift of God to Mexico and to the world. Your family, the Church, your school and those who have responsibility in society must work together to ensure that you receive a better world as your inheritance, without jealousies and divisions.


That is why I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.


You, my dear young friends, are not alone. You can count on the help of Christ and his Church in order to live a Christian lifestyle. Participate in Sunday Mass, in catechesis, in apostolic works, looking for occasions of prayer, fraternity and charity. Blessed Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, lived this way, and knowing Jesus, during the time of the initial evangelization of Mexico, they discovered that there is no greater treasure than he. They were children like you, and from them we can learn that we are never too young to love and serve.


How I would like to spend more time with all of you, but the time has already come for me to go. We will remain close in prayer. So I invite you to pray continually, even in your homes; in this way, you will experience the happiness of speaking about God with your families. Pray for everyone, and also for me. I will pray for all of you, so that Mexico may be a place in which everyone can live in serenity and harmony. I bless all of you from my heart and I ask you to bring the affection and blessing of the Pope to your parents, brothers and sisters, and other loved ones. May the Virgin accompany you. Thank you very much, my dear young friends.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let Me Feel You Shine by David Crowder

Guanajuato: A spiritual heartland

The following comes from the News.va site:


Guanajuato state, is described as the most observantly Catholic state in Mexico, which in itself is the world's largest Catholic, Spanish-speaking country. Listen to Emer McCarthy's report
This is the land that Pope Benedict has chosen for his very first meeting with the Mexican people. The land that was the wellspring of an armed uprising against harsh anti-clerical laws in the 1920s, a revolt for religious freedom that became known as the Cristeros’ War.


Saturday afternoon at 5pm local time, Pope Benedict will travel from Miraflores convent in Leon, his residence for the duration of his stay, to the state capital Guanajuato city. There, as per tradition, he will pay a closed door courtesy visit to Head of State, President Felipe Calderon, in the Casa del Conte Rul, the seat of the state government. 


Following the meeting, Saturday evening the Holy Father will make his way to Peace Square in the heart of the city to meet with groups of school children, before his return journey to Leon, home to the Archdiocese, 58 kms away. 


But between Leon and Guanajuato, on the summit of Cerra del Cubilete, Beakon Hill, rises what is perhaps the most eloquent reminder of the profound religious roots of this land: a giant bronze statue of Christ the King. It is a monument to the martyrs of the faith, who died in the Cristeros war and whose motto was Viva Cristo Rey. And beneath its outstretched arms in the Bicentennial Park on Sunday morning, Pope Benedict will preside over an out door mass, the first of this Apostolic voyage, his first on Mexican soil.

Mexican faithful flock to Pope Benedict


The following comes from the CBS News site:
It had become tradition in Mexico. Before daybreak, youths would creep as close as security permitted and serenade their beloved Pope John Paul II with a song of greeting and celebration.
Now a new, less familiar pope had come, seeking to strengthen his own ties with the largest Spanish-speaking Catholic nation.
So well before dawn Saturday, two dozen youths from a Guadalajara church group gathered near the school where the Pope Benedict XVI was staying. "We sang with all our heart and all our force," said Maria Fernanda de Luna, a member of the group. "It gave us goosebumps to sing 'Las Mananitas' for him."
Songs, joyful throngs, church bells and confetti welcomed Benedict as he began his first trip to Mexico, a celebration that seemed to erupt spontaneously out of what had been a thin, sun-dazed crowd.
As Pope Benedict XVI's plane appeared in the shimmering heat of Friday afternoon, people poured from their homes. They packed sidewalks five and six deep, screaming ecstatically as the pope passed, waving slowly. Some burst into tears.
Many had said moments earlier that they could never love a pope as strongly as Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II. But the presence of a pope on Mexican soil touched a chord of overwhelming respect and adoration for the papacy itself, the personification for many of the Catholic Church, and God. Thousands found themselves taken aback by their own emotions.
As a girl, Celia del Rosario Escobar, 42, saw John Paul II on one of his five trips to Mexico, which brought him near-universal adoration.
"I was 12 and it's an experience that still makes a deep impression on me," she said. "I thought this would be different, but, no, the experience is the same."
"I can't speak," she murmured, pressing her hands to her chest and starting to cry.
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a Mass in Colegio di Miraflores in Leon, Mexico, Saturday, March 24, 2012. 
(Credit: AP Photo/Osservatore Romano)
Belief in the goodness and power of the pope runs deep in Guanajuato, the most observantly Catholic state in Mexico, a place of deep social conservatism and the wellspring of an armed uprising against harsh anti-clerical laws in the 1920s. Some in the crowd came for literal healing, a blessing from the pope's passage that would cure illness, or bring them more work. Others sought inspiration, rejuvenation of their faith, energy to be a better parent.
Many said the pope's message of peace and unity would help heal their country, traumatized by the deaths of more than 47,000 people in a drug war that has escalated during a government offensive against cartels that began more than five years ago.
In a speech on the airport tarmac shortly after arriving, Benedict said he was praying for all in need, "particularly those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence."
He said he had come to Mexico as a pilgrim of hope, to encourage Mexicans to "transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Refuse by Josh Wilson

Pope Benedict arrives in Mexico


Friday, March 23, 2012

All this Time by Britt Nicole

Pope welcomes news of rapid Church growth in Texas


The following comes from the CNA:

Pope Benedict XVI is “glad to hear” from U.S. bishops on a recent visit to the Vatican that the Catholic Church is rapidly expanding in Texas.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, told CNA that what caught the Pope's attention the most is that “we are the region in the United States where the Catholic population is growing and growing intensely.”

Cardinal DiNardo and 21 other bishops from Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma have just completed six days in Rome on what is known as an Ad Limina Apostolorum visit. That involves making pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul as well as meeting the various Vatican departments to discuss the health of the Church in each diocese.

“This has been a very fine visit,” Cardinal DiNardo said, “and we’ve had beautiful celebrations at the tomb of the apostles.” He said that “offering Christ’s sacrifice” at the tombs renewed the bishops “sensibilities” towards their “commitment to the apostolic faith” and brought about “a grand communion of all the bishops together.”

The delegation met with Pope Benedict XVI in three groups over two days. Cardinal DiNardo, who also serves as head of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, explained the changing demographics of the Catholic Church in their region to the Pope.

He noted that 25 years ago, Houston had a Catholic population of around 12 percent – a that figure has since doubled.

The ethnic diversity of that new Catholic community is now such that Mass can often be offered in 18 different languages across the diocese each Sunday. The main influx has come from other parts of the U.S. such as the Midwest or north-east and also from other parts of the Americas.

“Houston also has the largest Vietnamese population outside Orange County in California,” explained Cardinal DiNardo.

The city has 135,000 Vietnamese of which about 30,000 are Catholic. That figure is rising, said the Cardinal, as many Vietnamese are now converting from Buddhism to Catholicism.

He described the trend as “very interesting” and ascribed it to the intensity with which Vietnamese Catholics practice their faith.

Cardinal DiNardo said the “huge influx” of people from all over the world and from elsewhere in the U.S. has produced “a grand enrichment and a very positive flavor to Catholicism.” Added to a “Texan informality” and the result has been a faith which “people find very welcoming.”

This has been “extremely helpful,” he said, in making people feel “attached” to the Church so that “we can then deepen more in terms of formation and catechesis.”

New film starring Andy Garcia aims to answer 'Who were the Cristeros'?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How He Loves Us by David Crowder Band

CARDINAL BERTONE: POPE BRINGING ENCOURAGEMENT TO MEXICO

The following comes from Zenit.org:

Benedict XVI will be in Mexico this Friday through Monday, before going on to Cuba. While there, he wants to encourage Mexicans, especially young people, observed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father's Secretary of State.
Cardinal Bertone was interviewed by Mexican television Televisa and by El Sol de México newspaper. The text of his talk was published by Vatican Radio.
The Pope will be taking “a message of encouragement, especially to young people, so that they will not allow themselves to be discouraged, to be enticed by easy goals of gain or social climbing, but instead, that they be committed to building a supportive society, an honest society, a society where each one has his place, his recognition -- a message of love and of great encouragement and, hence, of optimism,” he said.
Regarding the challenges facing Mexico’s society, the Italian cardinal suggested that the Pope might appeal for an end to violence, for the protection of human life, and for the promotion of the family.
Benedict XVI is well aware of the situation in a country marked by the challenges “of violence, of corruption, of drug trafficking,” which implies the commitment by everyone,”of both social and religious forces, to “re-found” Mexico on the Christian values imprinted in its DNA: peaceful coexistence, fraternity, solidarity and honesty.
He described Mexicans’ faith as “solid, not superficial,” and observed that, to surmount the challenges of the moment, “there is need of help from above, greater rootedness in the faith, more prayer and greater personal commitment.”
In regard to the project on religious liberty, Cardinal Bertone said that “if the right to religious liberty is firm, the other rights are also protected. If the right to religious liberty collapses, given that it is fundamental, the other rights also vacillate.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sometimes by David Crowder Band

Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. on path to Sainthood


Hat tip to Deacon Greg on this one!
A Catholic priest buried at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville cleared the first hurdle on the road to sainthood Monday, the Allentown Diocese announced.
The Rev. Walter J. Ciszek, a native of Shenandoah, Schuylkill County, attended St. Casimir’s Roman Catholic Church and school in Shenandoah before becoming a celebrated Jesuit priest who was held in a Russian prison for 15 years. He died in 1984.
Since 1989, after a mandatory five-year waiting period, his life has been under investigation by church officials both in the diocese and at the Vatican.
After a decade-long investigation, Ciszek’s life story in writings, sermons and actions was packed in wooden crates and shipped in 2006 to Rome for examination by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
There are still two steps, veneration and beatification, that must be completed before Ciszek is canonized a saint.
“This is exciting because it is one of our local boys making good,” said Monsignor Donald Bocian, president of the Father Walter J. Ciszek Prayer League and pastor of St. Casimir’s Church.
“But it is a very long process,” Bocian said. “I was told it could happen very quickly. I was also told the next of two steps could take three to four years.”
Ciszek was a member of the first class of Jesuits at the Novitiate of St. Isaac Joques in Lower Heidelberg Township, now known as the Jesuit Center at Wernersville. He is buried there and was nominated for sainthood in 1989.
“This breakthrough in the process is very encouraging and a testimony to the commitment and dedication of all those involved,” Allentown Bishop John O. Barres said.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel: Religious Experience

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

All this Glory by David Crowder Band

Southern Catholic Boom Continues With New Seminary


The following comes from the CNA:

A community of cloistered nuns and a future regional seminary plan to occupy newly purchased property in Cleveland County, North Carolina to serve a flourishing Catholic population.

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration joined with the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Te Deum Foundation to spend $2.9 million to purchase 484 acres in Mooresboro, which is about 60 miles west of Charlotte.

“Most seminaries only teach how to close parishes, cluster parishes, and how to administer to several parishes in light of dwindling numbers of Catholics,” the foundation said. “Praise be to God that this is not a problem in the South!”

The building plans come amid a shortage of Catholic seminaries in Southern States, the Catholic News Herald reported. At present, seminarians from the Diocese of Charlotte attend seminaries in Maryland, Ohio and Rome.

The Te Deum Foundation website suggested that seminarians for southern dioceses would be “blessed” to be able to stay in their own region. In addition to the necessary academics and formation, they could learn how to approach “the everyday challenges of living in the 'Bible Belt'” as well as how to open parishes and build churches.

The Catholic population in the region is said to be rapidly increasing, as the Diocese of Charlotte expects to reach 120,000 by 2030 – twice its current population.

For their part, the Poor Clares plan to build a permanent monastery for their community, which has lived in a temporary monastery in Charlotte since moving from Ohio in 2010. They emphasized that they plan to build the chapel first.

“We figured if we put the Lord first, do His building first, He will provide for ours,” Mother Dolores Marie, abbess of St. Joseph Monastery, told the Catholic News Herald.

The order plan for a cloister of 40,000 square feet, including interior courtyard space, recreation and prayer ages, an infirmary and a cemetery.

Billie Mobley, the Te Deum Foundation president, said she hopes that a group of bishops from the southeast U.S. will join in support for the seminary project.

The Te Deum Foundation is a non-profit organization that operates separately from the Diocese of Charlotte to support seminarians in their education.

Pope Benedict: Listen to Jesus’ voice in the desert of Lent


The following comes from the CNA:

Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Christians to walk with Jesus across the desert of Lent, to “listen more closely to the voice of God, and to unmask the temptations that speak within each of us.”

Before praying the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer at noon, Pope Benedict offered those pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square a reflection on how Lent is a “journey with Jesus through the desert.”

“On the horizon of the desert looms the Cross,” he said. “Jesus knows that it is the culmination of his mission: in fact, the Cross of Christ is the height of love, which gives us salvation.

“He himself says in today's Gospel: ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life,’” the Pope recalled.

He based his words on the Gospel reading from St. John for the fourth Sunday of Lent, a day that is popularly known as Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday, which marks the halfway point of the penitential season.

The Pope explained that in a similar way to how the Jews were healed from poisonous snake bites in the wilderness when they looked at the bronze serpent Moses created, so too are Christians healed of their sins by gazing upon Christ on the cross.

“Jesus will be lifted upon the Cross,” he said, “that whoever is in danger of death because of sin, turning in faith to Him who died for us, is saved. For God -- St. John writes – ‘did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.’”

The Pope brought his remarks to a close by looking ahead to the March 19 Solemnity of St. Joseph, after whom he is named, and his upcoming March 23-29 trip to Mexico and Cuba.

“Dear friends, tomorrow we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. I sincerely thank all those who have remembered me in prayer in the days before my name day. In particular, I ask you to pray for the apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba that I will begin next Friday.”

He entrusted the trip to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is “so loved and revered in these two countries that I am going to visit.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Benedict offered greetings in multiple languages to those present. He urged English-speaking pilgrims to keep their eyes fixed upon the goal of Lent, “when we will accompany our Lord on the path to Calvary, so as to rise with him to new life.”

Fr. Barron comments on Why It Matters That Our Democracy Trusts in God

What is Piety? And How Does a Lack of Piety Spell Doom for Us?

The following comes from the Msgr. Charles Pope:


In the modern world the word “piety” has come to be associated with being religious. And while it does have religious application, its original meaning was far wider and richer. The English word “piety” comes from the Latin pietas, which spoke of family love, and by extension love for one’s ancestors,  of one’s country, and surely of God. Cicero defined pietas as the virtue “which admonishes us to do our duty to our country or our parents or other blood relations.”
For the ancient Romans piety was one of the highest virtues since it was the virtue that knit families and ultimately all society together in love, loyalty and a shared, reciprocal duty. Piety also roots us in our past and gave proper reverence to our ancestors.
I hope you can see how essential piety is and why, if we do not recapture it more fully in the modern world, our culture is likely doomed. Piety is like a glue that holds us together. Without its precious effects, we fall apart into factions, our families dissolve, and the “weave” of our culture gives way to tear and dry rot.
Recently over at the Catholic Education Resource Center Donald Demarco (Professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell CT) wrote some helpful reflections on Piety. I’d like to share some excerpts here, the full article is HERE.
“Piety,” said Cicero, “is justice toward the gods,” and “the foundation of all virtues.” By extension, piety is the just recognition of all we owe to our ancestors. [Thus], the basis of piety is the sober realization that we owe our existence and our substance to powers beyond ourselves. We are social, communal beings. We are not islands; we are part of the mainland…..
“Greatness” is never a purely individual accomplishment. Its roots are always in others and in times past….Our beginning coincides with a debt. Piety requires us to be grateful to those who begot us. It also evokes in us a duty to give what we have so that we can give to our descendents as our ancestors gave to us. [And] Piety, by honoring what poured out from the past to become our own living substance, enlarges and enriches us. It disposes us to give thanks and to live in such a manner that we ourselves may one day become worthy objects for the thanks of others.
Piety was a favorite virtue of Socrates. Far from considering himself a self-made man….[he] gave full credit for whatever civility he enjoyed to those who preceded him. Ralph Waldo Emerson, by contrast, America’s head cheerleader for the man of self-reliance, spoke of “the sovereign individual, free, self-reliant, and alone in his greatness.” Emerson’s belief in the “greatness” of the individual is a dangerous illusion. It is a presumption that naturally leads to pride.
The great enemy of piety is individualism. Individualism is the illusion that we are somehow self-made, self-reliant, and self-sufficient. It is essentially an anti-social form of thinking that belongs to Nietzsche, Rousseau, Sartre, and Ayn Rand rather than to Socrates, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution.
The soul of individualism is unfettered choice. Abortion, for example, is presumed to be a private affair. Magically, as its advocates allege, it affects neither the child, its father, the family, nor society…. “Individuality” is the result of a fall from grace. Adam and Eve behaved as persons until sin reduced them to individuals. As individuals, they began lusting after each other. The aprons of fig leaves they fashioned indicated that they were profoundly ashamed of their new identities as self-centered and self-absorbed individuals.
Yes, individualism leaves us largely closed in our self and pathetically self-conscious.
So many of our struggles in this modern era center on a loss of piety, a loss of love and duty owed to our families, community, Church and nation. Our families and our duties to them and the wider community are sacrificed on the “altar” of self-love and self-aggrandizement. Divorce and cohabitation stab at the heart of families ties and family loyalty. We indulge our sexual passions and selfishly cling to our supposed right to be happy at high cost of a devastated family structure, and a heavy-laden community. Church and nation, that are somehow supposed to carry the weight of our imprudent and selfish choices. We speak incessantly of rights but almost never of duties.  Love of me, and what I “owe myself” is alive and well, but love and duty toward family, Church, community, and nation has grown cold. “I gotta be me” results in many, very small and competing worlds.
Further,  Our modern and post-Cartesian era is mired in a “hermeneutic of discontinuity.” That is to say, we have significantly cut our ties with the past. Our ancestors, and antiquity have little to say to us since we have closed our eyes and ears to them. The “Democracy of the Dead,” as Chesterton called tradition, has been cut off by the “Berlin Wall” of modern pride. Our love and respect for our ancestors and the duty we have to honor their wisdom is, to a large extent, gone. We largely see ourselves as “come of age” and are arrogantly dismissive of past ages. As such our continuity with our ancestors and with the wisdom they accumulated is ruptured, and our mistakes are both predictable and often downright silly. As we indulge our passions, and are largely lacking in self-control, we who pride ourselves as “come of age” look more like silly and immature teenagers, than the technical titans we boast of being. It is one thing to go to the moon, it is another to wisely accept need to learn from the past.
Some will like to emphasize the errors of the past, such as slavery, in order to dismiss it. But this misses the point that we learn, not only from the good things of the past, but also from the errors of the past. I learned as much from my parents’ struggles as from their strengths. We do not honor our ancestors because they are perfect. Rather we honor the collected wisdom they have handed on to us, some of which was discovered in the cauldron of struggle and sin.
Finally, the loss of piety also means the significant loss of learning. Without the respect and honor of our parents, teachers and ancestors, there can be no learning. If I do not respect you I cannot learn from you. It is no surprise that in our current American culture, which often celebrates youthful rebellion, that learning, tradition and faith are in a grave crisis. Teachers in classrooms spend so much time in discipline that there is little quality learning time. Parents, whose children are often taught by popular music and television that “adults are stupid” and “out of touch” give little thought to dismissing their parents wisdom. Where there is no respect, there can be no learning.
It is no surprise that the opening commandment of the second table of the Law is “Honor your Father and Your Mother that you may have long life in the land.” For God knows well that if a generation lacks piety, it severs itself from no only from worldly tradition but also from Sacred Tradition. Without reverence, without piety, there is no learning and there is no faith. We are cut off from the glorious wisdom God entrusted to our ancestors. It is no wonder that, in these largely impious and individualistic times,  faith is considered irrelevant to many and the Churches are increasingly empty.
Pray for piety. Pray for the gift of strong and abiding love for your family, for Church, for community and nation. Pray too for a deep love and respect for the ancestors who have gone before us, stretching back into antiquity. We owe a great debt to our family, nation, Church and ancestors. They have much to teach us, not only by their strengths, but also by their struggles. Scripture says,  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith(Heb 13:7).
This song is rooted in Hebrews 12:1-3 and the opening lines say, We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, looking on, encouraging us to do the will of the Lord! We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Let us stand worthy and be faithful to God’s call. The photos in this video are from the clerestory walls of my own parish, showing the saints in the “cloud of witnesses.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yosemite National Park


Time Lapse Tour of Yosemite National Park from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel on St. Joseph and Our Lady

St. Joseph, Father of the New Evangelization


The following comes from Zenit.org:

March is the month of St. Joseph, whose feast the Church will celebrate Monday. Currently the holy patron of Vatican II is now seen as the “Father of the New Evangelization” and “the holy patron of the third millennium,” according to an  initiative launched by the bishop of the French diocese of Frejus-Toulon, Bishop Dominique Rey
On Saturday, the Diocese of Frejus-Toulon will be consecrated to Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph had a special role in the preparation of Vatican Council II, given that Pope John XXIII chose him as a protector of the event, with his Apostolic Letter of March 19, 1961. In the text, Blessed John XXIII mentions “the voices that come to Us from all points of the earth” and the documents on Saint Joseph of his predecessors, from Pius IX to Pius XIII. In his document, the Pope proposed, in addition, that on March 19, Saint Joseph’s altar in the Vatican Basilica “be clothed in new splendor, wider and more solemn” to become a “point of attraction and religious piety for individual souls, for innumerable crowds.”
Then, in October of 1962, he made a gift of his papal ring to Joseph, offering it to the Polish shrine of Kalisz, where a painting of Saint Joseph is kept, which is considered miraculous.
It was Blessed John XXIII, moreover, who had Saint Joseph’s name inserted in the Canon of the Mass, as he announced in his address at the closing of the first session of the Council on Dec. 8, 1962. 
The Shrine at Knock
John Paul II in turn gave his ring to Saint Joseph, to whom he had also been devoted since his childhood. The ring was placed by Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, archbishop of Krakow, in the church of Carmel, a shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph, on March 19, 2004.
The Polish Pope recalled the importance of Saint Joseph for the life of the Church in his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (August 15, 1989), a century after Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Quanquam Pluries (August 15, 1889) on devotion to Saint Joseph.
For his part, Benedict XVI announced recently a Year of Faith, starting on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. On many occasions, Benedict XVI has invited Catholics to learn from the school of Saint Joseph, to have a “spiritual conversation” with him, linked to a renewal of faith. Before the Angelus on December 18, 2005, for example, he said: “It is therefore particularly appropriate in the days that precede Christmas to establish a sort of spiritual conversation with St Joseph, so that he may help us live to the full this great mystery of faith.”
On March 18, 2009, in Yaounde, Cameroon, the Pope dedicated his homily to his patron saint. Addressing all the people of God, he concluded saying that in Saint Joseph there is no separation between faith and action. 
“Dear brothers and sisters, our meditation on the human and spiritual journey of Saint Joseph invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a 'just man' (Mt 1:19) because his existence is 'ad-justed' to the word of God.”
The Year for Priests
On December 19, 2010, the 4th Sunday of Advent, Benedict XVI reflected before the Angelus on the Announcement to Joseph, entrusting to his protection all priests worldwide, stressing his role of “legal Father” of Jesus in God’s plan of salvation. “In witnessing to Mary’s virginity, to God’s gratuitous action and in safeguarding the Messiah’s earthly life St Joseph announces the miracle of the Lord. Therefore let us venerate the legal father of Jesus (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 532), because the new man is outlined in him, who looks with trust and courage to the future. He does not follow his own plans but entrusts himself without reserve to the infinite mercy of the One who will fulfil the prophecies and open the time of salvation.” said the Pope.
“Dear friends, I would like to entrust all Pastors to St Joseph, universal Patron of the Church, while I urge them to offer “Christ’s [humble] words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world”, (Letter Proclaiming the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009).),” he continued.
Brother Andre and Cotignac
On Sunday, October 17, 2010, the Pope canonized in Rome the Canadian Religious apostle of Saint Joseph, Brother Andre Bessette (1845-1937), who had Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal built, of which he was custodian until his death.
For its part, the Diocese of Frejus-Toulon has on its territory the shrine of Cotignac, entrusted to the Brothers of Saint John, where in June of 1660 the Holy Custodian appeared to a 22-year-old shepherd of Provence, Gaspard Ricard, pointing to a large rock and saying simply: “I am Joseph, move it and you will drink.”
Louis XIV, going on pilgrimage to Cotignac, only 10 days after his ascent to the throne, entrusted France to the protection of Saint Joseph the following year, on March 19, 1661.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Forgiven by Sanctus Real

Get a Life in Christ with Fr. Benedict Groeschel

MEETING GOD IN THE CONFESSIONAL


The following comes from Zenit.org:

In his recent address to the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Pope emphasized that the “New Evangelization begins also in the confessional.”
ZENIT spoke with Father Hernán Jiménez, a confessor in the basilica of Saint Mary Major of Rome, who forms part of the ancient tradition that entrusted to the Dominican Order the task of attending the penitents of one of the four papal basilicas. 
ZENIT: It seems that these days there is a greater number of people going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Father Jiménez: There are many because at Easter, Christians want to be reconciled with the Lord. The Church reminds them that they can take up again the path to the Father who awaits the son, who acknowledges his error and returns as a son to ask for his forgiveness. This is the most favorable time for our conversion.
ZENIT: Why is Lent a privileged time to receive this Sacrament? 
Father Jiménez: Because through prayer, moral more than corporal penance, and works of charity we participate more profoundly in the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. It is a preparation for Easter, which makes us aware of the need to see ourselves loved by God, our Father. Every believing Christian must live and feel the need for his conversion.
ZENIT: Does God always forgive? Does God forgive everything?
Father Jiménez: As a good, compassionate and merciful Father, God always forgives our faults and sins. God forgives everything if man humbly acknowledges himself a sinner, as Matthew 18: 21ff says.
ZENIT: What is the best way to prepare for Confession?
Father Jiménez: By examining one’s conscience regarding the Commandments, the precepts of the Church, the precept of fraternal charity. And also on all our duties as Christians, as real and practicing believers.
ZENIT: Can there be, perhaps, direct confession with God as some argue? What is the difference between “going straight to God” and the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Father Jiménez: There is direct communication with God in prayer and interior meditation, but never the remission of grave sins. According to the Lord’s mandate, only the Apostles and their successors, priests, can do it.
ZENIT: What is the biblical basis for the forgiveness of sins exercised by a priest before a penitent?
Father Jiménez: We find the basis in the Gospels, in John 20:22-23. The priest acts in the name of God and he does so by the mandate of the Church, which he receives in priestly ordination. The priest remits all sin with the formula: “… in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
ZENIT: Did the Apostles go to Confession?
Father Jiménez: We don’t have documentary evidence on this and it is not in the Gospels, but it is deduced from the weakness of our nature. They were also as the rest, poor men and sinners.
ZENIT: When did Confession, as we know it today, begin in the Church?
Father Jiménez: From the early times of the Church, in which it was public. Then, in the 4th century, it began to be private.
ZENIT: From what age and until when must a Catholic go to Confession?
Father Jiménez: At any age, but the Church counsels to practice it with one’s First Communion and until one has the use of reason, because one must be conscious of his moral life and his life as a believer.
ZENIT: In what way could the Sacrament of Reconciliation be an important element for the New Evangelization desired by the Pope?
Father Jiménez: Reconciliation is very important and indispensable for every Christian, especially in this historical period in which people seek to distance themselves from the Sacraments. And because when one becomes aware, and recognizes with great humility, the misery and weakness of one’s human nature before God and others, it makes one more human and sensitive to the other and in a special way to that Other who is God.
ZENIT: Is it the case there is an ancient tradition that confessions in the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major of Rome are the responsibility of the Dominican Fathers?
Father Jiménez: It is an ancient tradition since the foundation of the Apostolic Penitentiary by Pope Pius V, who entrusted it to the Dominicans in 1568.
ZENIT: How many times a day do you hear confessions? Do you do so every day of the week?
Father Jiménez: All of us are dedicated to this ministry of Reconciliation at least 23 hours a week. It depends on the day, with one day and a half of weekly rest.
ZENIT: Who are the ones who go to confession most often, men or women, the elderly or the young?
Father Jiménez: All categories of persons without any distinction. Many are young, women and the elderly.
ZENIT: It is said that the Popes go to Confession very often, and that Blessed John Paul II went weekly. Has Benedict XVI followed this practice?
Father Jiménez: Of course, as every Christian and good pastor of the universal Church: no one is without sin and perfect in this world. The present Pope also goes to Confession regularly.
ZENIT: What would you say to some of our readers who do not have the courage to go to Confession even during this Lent?
Father Jiménez:  To confront themselves humbly with the Word of God and to follow every divine inspiration to come to a genuine life of conversion. Take advantage of every help that the Lord in his patient mercy puts within our reach.