Thursday, May 31, 2012

For Greater Glory: A Review

The following comes from the NCR:

For Greater Glory tells a story of religious freedom and oppression that is far too little known, and that would be important and worthwhile at any time, but is strikingly apropos in our cultural moment.

The Cristero War or Cristiada of 1926 to 1929 was one of the largest insurgencies in Western history. Yet Americans in general, even Catholics and those of Mexican heritage, remain largely ignorant of this period of brutal suppression and desperate resistance, not to mention the long and contentious history of church-state antagonism in Mexico surrounding it.

For Greater Glory (Cristiada in Mexico) redresses this neglect. One of the most lavish and ambitious films ever produced in Mexico, it’s a breakthrough achievement for producer Pablo José Barroso (previously responsible for the curious but dull Guadalupe and the pious but flawed The Greatest Miracle). It’s also a milestone for faith-based productions generally: a sweeping, handsome epic with strong performances, solid production values and magnificent locations across Mexico.

Making his directorial debut, visual effects expert Dean Wright manages the sizable production capably, and if at times the first-time viewer may not always be entirely sure which mustachioed Latino is which, it’s another reason to see it more than once. (For the record, I’ve seen it twice — and my Reel Faith co-host David DiCerto has seen it four times — and we’ve both found that the film benefits from repeat viewings … which is a good thing.)

Its scope, early 20th-century Latin wartime milieu and Spanish-accented English dialogue invite comparison to There Be Dragons — but where that film centered on a dull protagonist and offered no real picture of the shape of the Spanish Civil War, For Greater Glory follows an ensemble cast through key events of the Cristero War. A pious, faith-friendly celebration of Cristero valor and the Catholic faith, it’s not exactly a history lesson, but neither is it a pseudo-historical fable à la Braveheart.

Opening titles and early scenes sketch some of the background: The 1917 Mexican Constitution included harsh anticlerical provisions that went unenforced until the regime of Plutarco Elías Calles, a fervent atheist, Freemason and virulent enemy of the Church. In 1926, Calles introduced legislation — the “Calles Law” — specifying penalties for violating the constitutional prohibitions: Clergy could be imprisoned for criticizing the government, fined for wearing clerical garb in public, and so forth. Calles also moved to seize Church property, close Catholic schools, seminaries and monasteries, and deport foreign priests.

Andy Garcia plays Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, an accomplished general-turned-businessman whose devout wife Tulita (Eva Longoria) is worried about their daughters’ religious upbringing in the current environment. When Tulita refuses to be comforted, Gorostieta asks defensively, “What do you want me to do?”

What indeed. Gorostieta opposes Calles’ excesses and favors a regime of greater religious freedom, but he’s an unbeliever — in fact, like Calles, he’s an anticlerical Freemason, though the film doesn’t spell this out. Now established as a soap manufacturer, Gorostieta is prosperous, but bored and ripe for a challenge.

There’s a nice moment when Gorostieta is approached by a representative of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty (LNDLR), which stands behind the Catholic resistance, called Cristeros or “Christers” — originally (like the word “Christian” itself) a derisive nickname, echoing their battle cry, ¡Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!). Initially dismissive of the ragtag rebels, Gorostieta is caught short by the representative’s parting question and gesture: Taking a cake of soap from Gorostieta’s desk, the man sniffs it appraisingly. Is Mexico’s greatest general content to live out his days producing pink soap?
Peter O’Toole has a small but notable role as a foreign-born cleric named Father Christopher whose kindness and heroic virtue make a lasting impression on a youth named José Luis Sanchez (likable Mauricio Kuri, a Mexico City native). In another small role, Bella star Eduardo Verástegui plays Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, a lawyer who supports peaceful means of resistance to Calles’ campaign. Sanchez and Flores were beatified as martyrs by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Sanchez’s martyrdom is almost a miniature Passion of the Christ, complete withPietà shot.

Like many faith-based productions, For Greater Glory could have benefitted from a less heavy hand and more subtlety: less exposition, less intrusive scoring, more nuanced characters and more complexity all around. Take a scene in which Gorostieta introduces young José to his magnificent Arabian horse. It’s a nice character moment with an implicit father-son subtext — but then the filmmakers have to go and make it explicit: “I never had a son,” Gorostieta tells José, “but if I did, I’d want him to be just like you.”

For the most part, everyone does and says exactly what one would expect of a character like them. Every priest is devout, and every executed priest and layman dies with edifying grace, and not a single federale troop involved in executing even priests and children shows the slightest hesitation or conflict.
Father José Reyes Vega (Santiago Cabrera), an important Cristero general, takes up arms, contrary to the demands of his clerical state. Other than that, he is a picture of piety — in marked contrast to the historical Vega, a notorious libertine whose most infamous crime, involving a train holdup, is here depicted as an accident and then forgotten with unseemly haste.

Gorostieta displays some complexity as a leader fighting on behalf of a faith he doesn’t share but is willing to appropriate for his purposes. He wears a large crucifix and uses "God talk" with the troops, though it’s not always clear whether, or how, he believes what he’s saying or when he starts to believe it. When Father Vega says Mass at one point, Gorostieta pointedly sits aside, smoking a cigar. Yet rubbing elbows with God has a way of changing a person, and Gorostieta’s imperceptible transition toward faith is credibly depicted, whether or not it’s historical.

Along with the Cristeros, For Greater Glory honors the contributions of the Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc, a covert women’s society that supported the war effort by smuggling supplies, information and even ammunition — the latter in custom-made undergarments. In this work, as a tense scene on a train illustrates, a wardrobe malfunction could lead to imprisonment or execution.

The film’s most intriguing character is a rugged rancher named Victoriano Ramirez (Oscar Isaacs, The Nativity Story), nicknamed El Catorce (The 14) in honor of an incident involving an ill-fated posse sent to kill him. Ramirez is basically a thug, but a thug with some noble impulses, and his character has the greatest potential for moral corruption or redemption.

That sequence involving the posse is one of the film’s best action set pieces, along with an ambush in a sleepy pueblo. Other action sequences, including an ambush in a valley, get the job done, but could have been staged with more imagination and drama.

Probably the most effective aspect of the film is its mixed depiction of the role of the Mexican hierarchy, the United States and even the Vatican. Early on, we hear that the Vatican is taking too long to weigh in on the Calles laws, though that’s quickly rectified. Bruce Greenwood is effortlessly authoritative as U.S. ambassador Dwight Morrow, a charming and effective negotiator whose main concern in Mexico is U.S. oil interests, though he gradually becomes aware of the enormity of what is occurring. (A nice exchange between Morrow and Calles (Rubén Blades) about mole poblano over one of their famous breakfasts together fleetingly shows another side of Calles.)

Morrow helped negotiate the tragic deal between Calles and the Church leadership that ended the Cristero Rebellion. The Cristeros were essentially sold out, and Calles conceded almost nothing to the Church, even breaking his promise of amnesty and proceeding to execute more Cristeros than died in the war itself. The ambiguity with which the Cristero conflict ended is indicated in the film, though the desire for a triumphant climax somewhat blunts what might have been more effective as a tragic ending (à la The Mission).

Visiting Mexico earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted ongoing restrictions on religious freedom in Mexico’s Constitution. In the United States, the U.S. bishops have made a top priority the defense of religious freedom against encroaching federal tyranny on a host of fronts, from immoral health-care mandates to acquiescence to same-sex “marriage.”

The magnitude of the conflict around religious freedom today is something no one could have predicted when production began on For Greater Glory. Some might call the film’s timing providential. I wouldn’t argue with them. For Greater Glory is the right movie at the right time.
Steven D. Greydanus is the Register’s film critic.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catholic Answers: What about the bad popes?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For Greater Glory: The Making of the Movie

For Greater Glory opens on June 1.  Go and see it!

Catholic Answers on the Eucharist

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron: The YouTube Heresies

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dr. Peter Kreeft Interview on Atheism

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What is Pentecost?

Dr. Thomas Howard on the Church and His Conversion

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dinesh D'Souza Interview

Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB: Our Lady Needs to Obtain Miracles

ROME, MAY 24, 2012 ( "As the Holy Father told the faithful during a general audience recently, taking his example from the primitive Church, what we have to do in face of persecution is to pray so that we may have the courage to proclaim the truth with frankness," said Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.
Speaking to ZENIT on today's World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, marked on the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, Cardinal Zen was recalling Pope Benedict's words given at his general audience April 18, in which he referred to the Acts of the Apostles (3:1--4:31).
The Pope explained that that passage, in which Peter and John "lifted their voices together to God" after being arrested for proclaiming Jesus' resurrection, revealed "an important basic attitude: when the first Christian community is confronted by dangers, difficulties and threats it does not attempt to work out how to react, find strategies, defend itself or what measures to adopt; rather, when it is put to the test, the community starts to pray and makes contact with God."
"In the case of the Church in China," Cardinal Zen said, "what we need most today is to be faithful to the true nature of the Church -- one, Catholic, apostolic, founded on the rock of Peter -- as the Holy Father clearly explained in his letter of 2007."
All over the world and especially in China, Catholics today offered up prayers for the suffering Church in the country -- a land where the faithful are forced to worship "underground" and where only the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association -- the official state-run "church" that does not accept the authority of the Pope -- is allowed for Catholics.
And although few media outlets have reported on it, the persecution continues. Just this week, news emerged that an underground diocesan administrator in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Father Joseph Gao Jiangping, had been tortured and held in solitary confinement in a bid to have him join the Patriotic Association.
According to a May 24 report in UCANews, Father Jiangping, who is in his 40s, had been confined in isolation since he was taken into custody Feb. 15. He is said to be in poor physical condition "because of torture and continuous interrogation." He and other underground priests in the region remain in hiding and cannot carry out normal pastoral work because they have refused to support the Patriotic Association, the news agency reported. 
A veteran campaigner for religious freedom and human rights in the country, Lord Alton of Liverpool, noted that in view of such suffering, Pope Benedict's decision in 2007 to have this annual World Day of Prayer for the Church in China has been "both prophetic and vital in the struggle" to bring religious freedom to the country. 
As the Holy Father said on Sunday, all Catholics must "grow in their love and concern" for the Church in China "so that religious freedom, and the human rights that come from it, can be fully realized," the British peer told ZENIT. "China is a great country but as she grows economically she will need the values which Christians cherish. For the good of China's wonderful people, the Catholic Church and the Chinese authorities must embrace one another and harness the energy of Catholics rather than persecuting them."
Joseph Kung, founding president of the Cardinal Kung foundation, told ZENIT that the day of prayer is an opportunity for the universal Church to pray for "true freedom of religion, genuine human rights, and the ending of forced contraception and abortion rules in China." He suggested it was also important for Catholics to pray for the opening of the beatification cause of his uncle, Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, "together with other numerous martyrs under Communist rule in China." 
"This will certainly be a very strong spiritual stimulus for the universal Church, especially for the Church in China," Kung said. Cardinal Kung, a hero to Chinese Catholics for his unwavering faith in the face of Communist persecution, spent 30 years in Chinese prisons before being released in 1985.
Since Pope Benedict XVI instituted the World Day of Prayer in 2007 in his Letter to Chinese Catholics -- a document aimed at encouraging the Chinese faithful and clarifying the Church's position in its relations with China -- little visible progress has been seen. The persecution of "underground" Catholics continues, bishops are sporadically ordained without the Pope's permission, and Holy See-Beijing relations remain chilly at best. 
"Nothing has changed since 2007," a Vatican official told ZENIT today, "but this is a process that could take 20 or 30 years." 
For Cardinal Zen, what is important is that the underground Church "persevere in their uncompromised stand" and for the "official community" to turn away from compromise, or as the cardinal puts it: "the contradictions between being in communion with the Holy Father and supporting an independent church." 
He means specifically new bishops appointed by the Holy See, yet who remain members of the Patriotic Association. Cardinal Zen believes that that situation remains unchanged since 2007 partly, he says, because the Vatican has given Chinese bishops conflicting messages, or appeared to encourage them to think that some degree of compromise with Beijing is possible.
The 80-year-old Salesian has long been a vocal critic of certain approaches by Vatican departments, often staffed as they are by officials who are not from China or who have not had direct, recent experience of the persecution and the suffering taking place there. So while he views the Pope and his letter as "a model of balance" between upholding the Church's principles and offering necessary pastoral sensitivity to Catholics who have made mistakes and even to the Chinese government, he tends to view officials as repeating the "ostpolitik" mistakes of the past, when the Church tried to compromise in a bid to make peace with Communist Russia and Eastern Europe.   
In a recent interview with Eglises d'Asie, a French Web site, Cardinal Zen explained why that is so perilous. He said the persecution of Catholics is actually becoming "more real and concrete" and on this point the government is showing no improvement. "They are employing increasingly dangerous and skilled methods, because they no longer stop at just threatening people, instead they are now leading them into temptation," he said. "They do not want to make martyrs, they want to encourage renegades. For the Church this is so much worse. They have the means to test people, good, weak or timid, and reduce them to obedience. Their tools are money, but also prestige, honor or positions in society." 
Cardinal Zen said this was already being witnessed in 2007, which is one reason why the Holy Father established the Day of Prayer on May 24. The cardinal recalled that the Chinese government's reaction to the letter was very negative. "Beijing did not want the Holy See to insinuate [the idea] that the Chinese Church is persecuted by civil authorities," he said. "For example, after the publication of the papal letter, in Hong Kong we wanted to organize a pilgrimage to Shanghai. But the Chinese authorities did not authorize us to do so. Since then, throughout the month of May, all pilgrimages to Sheshan have been banned for groups that are not from Shanghai. This means that the government is very unhappy that people say that the Church is persecuted in China. "
Yet the cardinal sees the letter as something not only "totally new and unique" but also "a very eloquent sign" of how much Benedict XVI cares for the Church in China. "The Holy Father expresses concern about the Church in China, of which he is informed in great detail," he said.
The outspoken cardinal told ZENIT he is not looking for reconciliation between Rome and the Patriotic Association. Instead, he said the reconciliation to hope and work for "is between the underground community and their brothers who are now still under the slavery of the Patriotic Association." 
The cardinal added: "Humanly speaking, we see no intention of the government willing to recognize religious freedom. … But God, through Our Lady Help of Christians, can work miracles."

Pope Benedict says personal conversion is first step of New Evangelization

The following comes from the CNA:

Pope Benedict XVI told the bishops of Italy today that personal holiness is an indispensable first step to reconverting their country and the Western world to Christianity.

"The fundamental condition in order to be able to speak about God is to speak with God, increasingly to become men of God, nourished by an intense life of prayer and molded by his grace,” the Pope said on May 24.
He encouraged his fellow bishops to allow themselves “to be found and seized by God so as to help the people we meet be touched by the Truth.”

Pope Benedict made his remarks to the participants of the 64th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, which is being held May 21--25.
The Italian bishops gathered in the Vatican’s Synod Hall, where they heard the Pope lament how for many people in the West, God has “become the great Unknown and Jesus is simply an important figure of the past.”

The Pope said that this is resulting in people no longer understanding the “profound value “ of the “spiritual and moral patrimony” that the West’s roots are in and that “is its lifeblood.” What was once “fertile land,” he said, is now at risk of “becoming a barren desert and the good seed (is in danger) of being suffocated, trampled on and lost.”

Even many baptized people in the West “have lost their identity” and “do not know the essential contents of the faith, or they believe they can cultivate faith without ecclesial mediation,” he warned the bishops.

The practical impact of this, Pope Benedict said, is that while many baptized “look doubtfully at Church teaching,” others have reduced “the Kingdom of God to certain broad values, which are certainly related to the Gospel but which do not touch the central nucleus of Christian faith.”
But the Pope did not finish his remarks without offering a solution to the Italian bishops.

He pointed them to the New Evangelization, which has its roots in the prophetic words of Pope John XXIII. At the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, John XXIII said that the council would help “transmit pure and integral doctrine, without any attenuation or misrepresentation” but in a new way “according to what is required by our times.”
This, explained Pope Benedict, is the key or “hermeneutic” of “continuity and reform” required to properly understand the council today.
He repeated, though, that any new evangelization will not be achieved simply by “new methods of announcing the Gospel” or by “pastoral activity” but only through personal conversion.

“We must begin again from God, celebrated, professed and witnessed,” said the Pope. “Our primary task, our true and only task, remains that of dedicating our lives to the one thing that is truly dependable, necessary and ultimate.”

Before concluding with a prayer to the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict assured the bishops that the Catholic faith preached by word and example still has the power to draw all people to Christ.
“Where space is given to the Gospel, and therefore to friendship with Christ, man realizes he is the object of a love which purifies, warms, renews, and makes us capable of serving mankind with divine love,” he said.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron: The New Evangelization and Catholic Seminaries

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cardinal Dolan: White House is "strangling" Catholic church

For Greater Glory

On June 1 the movie "For Greater Glory" will hit the theaters in the USA.  Go see this movie!  It tells the history of the persecution of the faith of the people of Mexico by their government.  A secondary story is the heroic witness of José Luis Sanchez Del Rio, a 14 year old hero and martyr!  We need to get the word out about this film!  The following comes from the Black Cordelias site:

José Luis Sanchez Del Rio was born in Sahuayo, Michoacan (Mexico), March 28 1913 by parents Macario Sánchez, María del Río. Visiting the tomb of the blessed martyr Anacleto González Flores, he asked God to die in defense of the faith. Just fourteen, José Luis was murdered February 10, 1928, during the religious persecution in Mexico, as belonging to the Cristeros, a large Catholic group that was opposed to the oppression of President Plutarco Elías Calles regime.

One year before the martyrdom of José Luis, he had joined the Cristeras of General Prudencio Mendoza, whose base was at the village of Cotija. The tragic event attended by two children, respectively, seven and nine years, which in future would religious congregations. One of them was Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, born in Cotija, which in the interview-book “Mi Vida es Cristo” ( “My life is Christ”) revealed the decisive role for his vocation was witnessing the death of martyred little friend. “He was arrested by the forces of government, which wanted to give an exemplary punishment on the civilian population that supported the Cristeros” said the founder who was just seven years old at the time. “They asked him to renounce his faith in Christ under the threat of the death penalty. José did not accept apostasy. His mother was torn from the penalty and by anxiety, but his son said. Then they peeled the soles of the feet and the obligation to walk in the country, on the road to the cemetery. He cried and moaned in pain, but not sold. From time to time he stopped and said: If you shout, ‘Christ the King dies’ it will save lives. Tell them ‘Christ the King will die’. But he replied: ‘Long live Christ the King’. Reaching the cemetery, before he was shot, they asked him for the last time if he wanted to deny his faith. And he did not so they killed him right there. He died then by shouting, like many other Mexican martyrs: ‘Christ the King lives!’. These are indelible images from my memory and the memory of the Mexican people, although there is no mention of them in official history. “

The other eyewitness was a child of nine years, Enrique Amezcua Medina, who later founded the Priestly Confraternity of Workers of the Kingdom of Christ, now present in both houses of formation in Mexico, Spain and several other countries around the world. In the biography of the Brotherhood he founded, Father Amezcua remembered his providential meeting with José Luis Sanchez Del Rio. As stated in that testimony, he knew the child martyr which proved decisive for his choice of priests. He then created the “Seminary of Christ the King” on Salvatierra for the Training of Workers, whose internship was dedicated to “José Luis”. The mortal remains of José Luis Sanchez Del Rio, still resting in the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in his hometown, became a pilgrimage site.

The martyrdom of the victims of religious persecution caused by the new Mexican Constitution of 1917, was approved on June 22, 2004 by Pope John Paul II and he was beatified on November 20, 2005, under Pope Benedict XVI, with the ceremony presided by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Cardinal José Saraiva Martins in Guadalajara in Mexico.

Below is the testimony of true "Cristeros":

One Minute Apologist With Dinesh D'Souza

Remembered Today in Rome: Fr. Vincent Capodanno, American Marine

The following comes from the Catholic Lane site:

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – Gospel of St. John, 15:13
There are some men who sum up the character of a nation. One such man was Vincent Robert Capodanno. Capodanno represented what was best about America, and now those who remember him would like the Catholic Church to proclaim that he was a saint.
As part of that effort, a memorial Mass [was] celebrated in his memory [today] in Rome, at the Church of Santa Susanna.

Who Was Capodanno?
Vincent Robert Capodanno was born into an Italian Catholic family on Staten Island in 1929. He attended Catholic schools and entered the Maryknoll Missionary Society after his first year in college and was sent on to the Maryknoll seminary to complete his education. He was ordained in June of 1957.
Fr. Capodanno’s first missionary assignment was to Taiwan where he served in many capacities for seven years, usually among the poor and disadvantaged. After a brief return to the U.S., he was reassigned to a Maryknoll school in Hong Kong.

Seeking new challenges, as he himself said, Fr. Capodanno requested a new assignment and in December 1965, after finishing officer’s candidate school, he received his commission as a U.S. Navy chaplain.
His first assignment came in 1966 when he joined the First Marine Division in Vietnam. When his tour was complete, he requested that it be extended and he served as chaplain in a Navy hospital. After serving briefly at the hospital, he reported to the 5th Marine Division.

The “Grunt Padre” 
As a chaplain with the Marines, Fr. Capodanno quickly earned a reputation for selfless and untiring service to his men. He became affectionately known as the “Grunt Padre” among the fighting men. As a chaplain he had no command authority as did the other officers, yet because of the special love and kindness he offered, and his willingness to share the ordinary hardships of the most junior Marines, he inspired a loyalty surpassing that of the very finest officers.
His division chaplain, David Casazza, once inquired what father did when he was with the troops. He replied “I am just there with them – I walk with them and sit with them; I eat with them and sleep in the holes with them – and I talk with them – but only when they are ready to talk. It takes time, but I never rush them.”

This compassionate Marine chaplain never feared danger. When troops assembled for combat operations, he was with them. When they went in to the heat of battle, he was with them. During the fiercest fighting, all the infantry men would watch over Fr. Capodanno because they knew he would be moving among the men, ministering to those in greatest need, even to the very front line – never concerned with his own safety – concerned only with his men. The men had an unspoken resolve to “watch over our padre.”

Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites and taking care of his beloved Marines. Always watching out for them, as they watched out for him.
Wounded in the face and suffering a severe shrapnel wound that nearly severed his hand, during the epic battle of Dong Son in September 1967, Father Vince moved to help a wounded Marine only yards from an enemy machine gun.
Father Capodanno died from a machine gun blast taking care of this young Marine. When his body was recovered, he had 27 bullet wounds.
As a young seminarian, Vincent Capodanno had written to his superior about a book he was given to read, Radiating Christ, and said “this book will be a great help (to me) in directing God’s light to the shadows throughout the world. The book’s author, Fr. Raoul Plus, was a French military chaplain in World War I. 
The descent and incarnation described in Radiating Christ had now, in the end, brought Fr. Vincent to suffering and burial. The more he united himself with his Marines, the more he was united to Christ. As the Lord suffered with and for those He loved, so Fr. Vincent endured the harsh trials of war with and for those he served in love, for the sake of Christ and in imitation of Him.
On December 27, 1968 he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of his selfless sacrifice.

On May 21, 2006 Fr. Capodanno was officially declared “Servant of God” as the cause for his sainthood moves forward.
What is needed now is a miracle, that is, an incident of supernatural healing due to the intervention of this holy priest. Therefore, people who wish to pray for a healing may consider praying for the intercession of the slain “Grunt Padre,” and if a miraculous healing occurs, report what has happened to Church authorities.

Pope Benedict thanks God for 'dark nights' in his life

The following comes from the CNA:

Pope Benedict XVI has revealed to his closest collaborators in the Sacred College of Cardinals how the “dark nights” of his life have brought him closer to Christ.

“In this moment my words can only be a word of thanks; firstly gratitude to the Lord for giving me so many years; years with many days of joy, wonderful times, but also dark nights,” he said May 21.

“But in retrospect one realizes that even the nights were necessary and good, a cause for thanksgiving.”
Pope Benedict made his unscripted remarks at a private lunch at the Vatican with several dozen cardinals. The gathering was held to mark the 7th anniversary of his pontificate and also his 85th birthday. The comments were only officially released to the media May 22.

During lunch, the Pope told the cardinals that “we see how evil wants to dominate in the world and that it is necessary to enter into the fight against evil.”

He added that although the term “the Church Militant” is deemed “a bit out of fashion” these days, it is actually the phrase that best “possesses the truth.”

This evil, he said, manifests itself in many obvious ways through “different forms of violence” but, more subtly, it can also be found “masquerading as goodness, and thus destroying the moral foundations of society.”

Pope Benedict reminded the cardinals of St. Augustine’s maxim that “all of history is a struggle between two loves.” Either we love of ourselves and have contempt for God or we love God and have contempt for ourselves in martyrdom.

“We are in this fight and in this struggle it is very important to have friends,” he told them before thanking them personally for their friendship over the past seven years.

“Thank you for the communion of joys and sorrows. Let us go forward,” said the Pope, reminding them of the Christ’s promise “Courage, I have overcome the world.”

“We are in the Lord’s team, therefore in the winning team,” he concluded before proposing a toast.

Yesterday’s remarks are in keeping with several recent comments by the Pope in which he has alluded to the difficulties he has faced during his pontificate.

Earlier this month he used a Wednesday General Audience to thank people for their prayers and support since he election as Successor of Peter in 2005.

“From the first moment of my election as the Successor of St. Peter, I have always felt supported by the prayers of you all, by the prayer of the Church, especially by your prayers at moments of greatest difficulty, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he told pilgrims in St. Peters Square May 9.

“Unanimous and constant prayer is a precious instrument in overcoming all of the trials that may arise in the path of life, because it is our being deeply united with God that allows us to also be deeply united to others,” the Pope said, before thanking everyone again.