Friday, May 31, 2013

Pope Francis on Corpus Christi

The following comes from Whispers in the Loggia:

In his first turn at the traditional outdoor rites celebrating the Lord's Body and Blood, here below is the Pope's homily – with Vatican Radio's English real-time audio translation dubbed in – given earlier tonight on the steps of St John Lateran for Corpus Christi:

Even if the text of the preach is making the rounds, again, remember well that this Pope wishes to be heard as opposed to merely being read.

*   *   *
While the feast is always marked by the pontiffs on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday – its traditional setting, which recalls the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday – where the weekday isn't a holy day of obligation, the observance is now transferred to Sunday, which is the case across the lion's share of the global church. 

For the first time in two decades, Francis walked 
the traditional mile-long procession from Rome's cathedral to St Mary Major behind the flatbed truck that carried the exposed Blessed Sacrament, instead of riding on the vehicle and spending the route on his knees before the monstrance.

While the choice surprised some, it bears recalling that, as cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio led an annual walking procession from the city to the shrine of Argentina's patroness, Our Lady of Luján, located some 40 miles outside the capital.
Said Marian devotion already well in evidence over his two months on Peter's chair, tomorrow night will see Francis close out Mary's month by leading a public recitation of the Rosary in St Peter's Square. 

Then, as previously noted, on Sunday afternoon the Pope will lead a global hour of Eucharistic adoration in the Vatican basilica for the following intentions written by him....
First: “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

Second: “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”

On the Feast of the Visitation, Pope Francis preaches Christian joy

The following comes from the CWR:

Today Pope Francis preached a homily on Christian joy during morning Mass for the Feast of the Visitation in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel. “Everything is joy,” Francis said. “But we Christians, we are not used to talking about joy, about happiness. I think that many times we prefer complaints! What is joy? The key to understanding this joy is in the Gospel: 'Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit'. What gives us joy is the Holy Spirit.”

L’Osservatore Romano has more from the Holy Father’s homily:

“It is the Spirit who guides us. He is the author of joy, the creator of joy, and this joy of the Holy Spirit gives us true Christian freedom. Without joy we Christians cannot become free. We become slaves to our sorrows.”
The Pope then quoted “the great Pope Paul VI”, recalling when he said that “you cannot advance the Gospel with sad, hopeless, discouraged Christians. You cannot.” Sometimes Christians, instead of showing the joy of one who goes “to praise God,” have a face as if attending “a funeral procession.” Christian joy comes from praising God. “But what does it mean to praise God?” asked the Pope. It is “to come out of oneself and praise him freely, as the grace he gives to us is free,” he explained.

He went on to say that “if you do not praise God and do not know how to graciously waste time praising him, of course the Mass seems long! But if you go with this attitude of joy, praising God, this is beautiful.” Moreover, “eternity will be this: praising God.  But this will not be boring, it will be wonderful. This joy makes us free.”

Pope Francis plans to complete encyclical on faith

(CNS)  Continuing a papal tradition of finishing a predecessor's work in progress, Pope Francis intends to complete an encyclical -- on the virtue of faith -- begun during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

"I can confirm that the plan for an encyclical on faith, begun by Benedict XVI, has been taken up by the new pope," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said in a May 24 email response to questions. He said it would "be premature" to guess when the encyclical would be completed.

The statement followed reports in Italian media claiming that the retired pope would be completing the encyclical himself.

In an article for his diocesan bulletin, Bishop Luigi Martella of Molfetta, Italy, had said that when he met Pope Francis in mid-May with other bishops from Italy's Puglia region, the pope told them that he had been worried about Pope Benedict's health, "but now he is much better."

Bishop Martella said Pope Francis "wanted to share a confidence, almost a revelation with us: Benedict XVI is finishing writing the encyclical on faith that will be signed by Pope Francis."

Responding to questions, Father Lombardi said, "I can absolutely deny that Benedict XVI is working on the planned encyclical."

In December, Father Lombardi had said Pope Benedict's encyclical on faith would be released in the first half of 2013. The encyclical would complete a trilogy on the three "theological virtues," following "Deus Caritas Est" (2005) on charity, and "Spe Salvi" (2007) on hope.

A pope picking up work begun under his predecessor, adding his own thoughts and style to it, is common practice. For example, a document about the church's charitable activity begun under Pope John Paul II became the framework for the second section of Pope Benedict's 2005 encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est."

Bishop Martella said Pope Francis also told the Puglia bishops that he was planning an encyclical on poverty, "understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in an evangelical sense." It will be called "Beati pauperes" -- "Blessed Are the Poor," the bishop said.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pope Francis: God calls us, urges us, to His family

The following comes from Whispers in the Loggia:

In what'll likely become another enduring image of the new Pope, Francis made his usual "tour" of St Peter's Square before this Wednesday's audience amid a rainstorm to greet the crowd estimated at 90,000.

Since his election, the new pontiff's spins in the open-topped Popemobile have come to run increasingly longer as he's adjusted into the role. On a couple occasions when the crowds have extended beyond the Piazza, the passenger's taken his jeep outside the Vatican's front yard into the Via della Conciliazione. While one of these came as a surprise on the day of Rome's annual pro-life march, an extended drive before the Pentecost Vigil shaped up as a security force's nightmare when some in the "outskirts" of the 200,000 person throng threw gifts at Francis, several of which hit their target as he went around the unsecured area beyond the Colonnade. Not until today, however, has the weather been an issue.

Having completed the series of Wednesday talks on the Creed begun by his predecessor, the Pope started with a fresh topic, below in its Vatican Radio translation.

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I stressed the deep connection between the Holy Spirit and the Church. Today I would like to start some reflections on the mystery of the Church, a mystery that we all live and of which we are part. I would like to do this, using some well-known phrases taken from the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Today the first: the Church as Family of God
In recent months, more than once I have made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, or rather of the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32). The youngest son leaves the house of his father, squanders everything, and decides to return because he realizes he made a mistake, though he no longer considers himself worthy of sonship. He thinks he might be welcomed back as a servant. Instead, the father runs to meet him, embraces him, gives him back his dignity as a son, and celebrates. This parable, like others in the Gospel, shows well the design of God for humanity.

What is this God’s plan? It is to make us all the one family of his children, in which each of you feels close to Him and feels loved by Him – feels, as in the Gospel parable, the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its source. [The Church is] is not an organization founded by an agreement among [a group of] persons, but - as we were reminded many times by Pope Benedict XVI - is the work of God: it was born out of the plan of love, which realises itself progressively in history. The Church is born from the desire of God to call all people into communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed, as His children, to partake of His own divine life. The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means “convocation”.

God calls us, urges us to escape from individualism, [from] the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, and calls us – convokes us – to be a part of His family. This convocation has its origin in creation itself. God created us in order that we might live in a relationship of deep friendship with Him, and even when sin had broken this relationship with God, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us.

The whole history of salvation is the story of God seeking man, offer[ing] humanity His love, embracing mankind. He called Abraham to be the father of a multitude, chose the people of Israel to forge an alliance that embraces all nations, and sent, in the fullness of time, His Son, that His plan of love and salvation be realised in a new and everlasting covenant with humanity. When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus gathers around him a small community that receives His word, follows Him, shares His journey, becomes His family – and with this community, He prepares and builds His Church.

Whence, then, is the Church born? It is born from the supreme act of love on the Cross, from the pierced side of Jesus from which flow blood and water, a symbol of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In the family of God, the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is realised in loving Him and others, loving all without distinction, without measure. The Church is a family that loves and is loved.

When does the Church manifest itself? We celebrated [the Church’s manifestation] two Sundays ago: the Church manifests itself when the gift of the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of the Apostles and pushes them to go out and start the journey to proclaim the Gospel, to spread the love of God.

Even today, some say, “Christ yes, the Church no,” like those who say, “I believe in God, but in priests, no.” They say, “Christ: yes. Church: no.” Nevertheless, it is the Church that brings us Christ and that brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God's children. Of course it also has the human aspects: in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins – the Pope has his, as well: he has lots of them; but the beautiful thing is that, when we become aware that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God. God always forgives: do not forget this. God always forgives, and He receives us in His love of forgiveness and mercy. Some people say – this is beautiful – that sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity: the humiliation of realising [that one is a sinner] and that there is something [exceedingly] beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think about this.

Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church? Do I pray for her? Do I feel myself a part of the family of the Church? What do I do to make the Church a community in which everyone feels welcomed and understood, [in which] everyone feels the mercy and love of God who renews life? Faith is a gift and an act that affects us personally, but God calls us to live our faith together, as a family: as the Church.

We ask the Lord, in a special way in this Year of the faith, that our communities, the whole Church be ever more true families that live and carry the warmth of God.

Pope Francis to lead Worldwide Adoration

The following comes from the Catholic Culture site:
Pope Francis will lead a worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration on Sunday, June 2, the Vatican has announced.
On that date, cathedrals all across the world will hold an hour of Eucharistic adoration at the same time, inviting the faithful to pray for the Pope’s intentions. The worldwide session of adoration will take place from 5 to 6 Sunday afternoon in Rome, and cathedrals worldwide will synchronize their vigils to match that time. The Pope has asked the universal Church to pray for two intentions during the hour of adoration:
  1. For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.
  2. For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labor. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.
The worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration is one of two initiatives for the Year of Faith, announced on May 28 by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. The other initiative is Evangelium Vitae Day, which will be observed June 15-16. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council, outlined plans for the observance.
On Saturday evening, June 14, a candlelight procession will advance down the Via della Conciliazione into St. Peter’s Square, with participants from all over the world, calling attention to the dignity of human life. Earlier that day, participants will visit the tomb of St. Peter, with an opportunity for Confession and adoration in the Vatican basilica. On Sunday morning Pope Francis will preside at Mass with all participants.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When My Time Comes by Dawes

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pope Francis: Following Christ is not a career, it is the way of the Cross

(Vatican Radio) We should not reduce the proclamation of Jesus to being a mere cultural ‘gloss’ or ‘veneer’, it must go ‘straight to the heart’ and change us. Moreover, following Jesus ‘does not mean more power’, it is not a ‘career’ because His way is that of the Cross. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass Tuesday in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence. Emer McCarthy reports: 

What is our reward in following you? Pope Francis began with the question Peter puts to Jesus. A question, he said, which in the end concerns the life of every Christian. Jesus says that those who follow Him will have "many good things" but "with persecution." The path of the Lord, he continued, "is a road of humility, a road that ends in the Cross." That is why, he added, "there will always be difficulties," "persecution." There will always be, "because He travelled this road before" us. The Pope warned that "when a Christian has no difficulties in life – when everything is fine, everything is beautiful - something is wrong." It leads us to think that he or she is "a great friend of the spirit of the world, of worldliness." The Pope noted this "is a temptation particular to Christians":

"Following Jesus, yes, but up to a certain point: following Jesus because of culture: I am a Christian, I have this culture ... But without the necessity of true discipleship of Jesus, the necessity to travel this His road. If you follow Jesus as a cultural proposal, then you are using this road to get higher up, to have more power. And the history of the Church is full of this, starting with some emperors and then many rulers and many people, no? And even some - I will not say a lot, but some - priests, bishops, no? Some say that there are many ... but they are those who think that following Jesus is a career. "
The Pope recalled that at one time, "in the literature of two centuries ago," it would sometimes be stated that someone "from the time he was a child wanted a career in the church." Here the Pope reiterated that "many Christians, tempted by the spirit of the world, think that following Jesus is good because it can become a career, they can get ahead." But this "is not the spirit". Instead it is Peter’s attitude when he speaks to Jesus about careers and Jesus answers: "Yes, I will give everything with persecution." "You cannot remove the Cross from the path of Jesus, it is always there." Yet, Pope Francis warned, this does not mean that Christians must hurt themselves. The Christian "follows Jesus out of love and when you follow Jesus out of love, the devil’s envy does many things." The "spirit of the world will not tolerate this, does not tolerate this witness":

"Think of Mother Teresa: what does the spirit of the world say of Mother Teresa? 'Ah, Blessed Teresa is a beautiful woman, she did a lot of good things for others ...'. The spirit of the world never says that the Blessed Teresa spent, every day, many hours, in adoration ... Never! It reduces Christian activity to doing social good. As if Christian life was a gloss, a veneer of Christianity. The proclamation of Jesus is not a veneer: the proclamation of Jesus goes straight to the bones, heart, goes deep within and change us. And the spirit of the world does not tolerate it, will not tolerate it, and therefore, there is persecution. "

Pope Francis said those who leave their home, their family to follow Jesus, receive a hundred times as much "already now in this age." A hundred times together with persecution. And this should not be forgotten:

"Following Jesus is just that: going with Him out of love, behind Him: on the same journey, the same path. And the spirit of the world will not tolerate this and what will make us suffer, but suffering as Jesus did. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus in the way that He has revealed to us and that He has taught us. This is beautiful, because he never leaves us alone. Never! He is always with us. So be it".

Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Rino Fisichella and Msgr. José Octavio Ruiz Arenas, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. It was attended by a group of priests from the Council and staff from the Vatican Power Station and Technical Laboratory of the Governorate of Vatican carpentry, accompanied by Engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna, Director of Technical Services of the Governorate.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ronald Reagan and Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Mr. President, General, the distinguished guests here with us today, my fellow citizens:

In America's cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor.

In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their "last full measure of devotion" were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage—not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.

I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.

Yet, we must try to honor them—not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.

Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we—in a less final, less heroic way—be willing to give of ourselves.

It is this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems, that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not come again, other young men will not have to die, if we will speak honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to meet those dangers.

It's not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us.

Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. We must strive to speak of them not belligerently, but firmly and frankly. And that's why we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide gulf between our codes of morality. And that's why we must never hesitate to acknowledge the irrefutable difference between our view of man as master of the state and their view of man as servant of the state. Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won.

It is this honesty of mind that can open paths to peace, that can lead to fruitful negotiation, that can build a foundation upon which treaties between our nations can stand and last—treaties that can someday bring about a reduction in the terrible arms of destruction, arms that threaten us with war even more terrible than those that have taken the lives of the Americans we honor today.

In the quest for peace, the United States has proposed to the Soviet Union that we reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by negotiating a stable balance at far lower levels of strategic forces. This is a fitting occasion to announce that START, as we call it, strategic arms reductions, that the negotiations between our country and the Soviet Union will begin on the 29th of June.

As for existing strategic arms agreements, we will refrain from actions which undercut them so long as the Soviet Union shows equal restraint. With good will and dedication on both sides, I pray that we will achieve a safer world.

Our goal is peace. We can gain that peace by strengthening our alliances, by speaking candidly of the dangers before us, by assuring potential adversaries of our seriousness, by actively pursuing every chance of honest and fruitful negotiation.

It is with these goals in mind that I will depart Wednesday for Europe, and it's altogether fitting that we have this moment to reflect on the price of freedom and those who have so willingly paid it. For however important the matters of state before us this next week, they must not disturb the solemnity of this occasion. Nor must they dilute our sense of reverence and the silent gratitude we hold for those who are buried here.

The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI's of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way.

Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, "just the best darn kids in the world." Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn't volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.

Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem—I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.
Thank you.

                                                                President Ronald Reagan

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rich Mullins - Live in Holland (1994)

Blessed Giuseppe "Pino" Puglisi: The Priest Who Stood Up to Mafia

The following comes from First Things:

On May 25, a mere twenty years after his murder, the Italian Catholic priest Don Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi will be beatified. A figure much beloved in Sicily, Puglisi will be the first victim of the mafia to be declared a blessed by the Catholic Church. Puglisi’s beatification is a sign of how a Church once deeply complicit with organized crime came to stand heroically against it.

A native of Brancaccio, perhaps the roughest and poorest neighborhood of Palermo, the young Pino Puglisi was exposed to the dangers of the mob since being ordained a priest in 1960. His first assignment was a village called Godrano in Sicily. In this hamlet of only about one hundred people, fifteen villagers were killed by the mafia near the time of his arrival. Puglisi responded by going door to door to preach reconciliation and forgiveness of one’s enemies.

Much of the Sicilian Church neglected the danger of the mafia. The archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Ernest Ruffini, regarded organized crime as something of a myth blown out of proportion by the media to deflect from the true threat to Italy, communism. In one interview, Ruffini told a journalist that he was not sure whether the mob even existed. Perhaps, he suggested, it was the product of the media’s fantasy. This compelled Puglisi to pressure Church authorities to speak out against the mafia.

When Puglisi returned to Brancaccio as the pastor of St. Gaetano parish in 1990, he became one of organized crime’s biggest opponents. Puglisi railed against the violence of the mob on Sunday mornings, and his Masses attracted increasingly large crowds of Sicilians who felt that finally someone was speaking in defense of their rights.

However, perhaps as important as his strongly worded anti-mafia homilies were Puglisi’s efforts to create an anti-mafia culture: his parish became a center of resistance to Cosa Nostra’s corrupt rule. Puglisi encouraged his flock to stand up and defend itself against the ever-powerful mafia, thus breaking with many Sicilians’ previous practice of omertà, or taking a vow of silence in light of the mafia’s anarchic violence. Puglisi realized that poverty, ignorance, and idleness breed crime, and so he encouraged Brancaccio’s youths to stay in school and tried to structure their free time. He created a soccer field on the territory of his parish for young boys to play rather than be seduced by Cosa Nostra, and he encouraged many of his young parishioners to be altar servers at his Masses.

Puglisi’s courageous stance against the mafia signaled a strong break with previous Brancaccio pastors’ practices. Whereas his predecessors at St. Gaetano grudgingly accepted the influence of the mafia, Puglisi refused money from Mafiosi. However, like many great Christian witnesses courageous enough to deplore injustice, Don Puglisi paid the ultimate price. On September 15, 1993, his fifty-sixth birthday, Don Puglisi was shot and fatally wounded in front of St. Gaetano parish, his assassination ordered by the mafia.

Puglisi quickly became a legend to many Sicilians. Graffiti with Puglisi’s favorite phrase—“And what if somebody did something?”—is spray painted all over Palermo. In 1999, Puglisi’s beatification cause was inaugurated, and in 2013 he will be beatified, much to the joy of many Sicilians.

Puglisi’s heroism is part of a larger movement in the Italian Church to defend the vulnerable against the mafia after years of silence. The first pope to actively battle the terror sowed by the mafia in Southern Italy was John Paul II. Although from Poland, he took his role as the primate of Italy seriously, making pilgrimages all over the Apennine Peninsula. After a series of murders in 1993, John Paul deplored the mafia during a visit to Agriento, Sicily, proclaiming: “I say to those responsible: Convert! One day, the judgment of God will arrive!” As a vendetta against the pope, the mob bombed two historic churches in Rome. One year later, during a visit to Catania John Paul II told victims of the mafia to “rise up and cloak yourself in light and justice.”

After turning a blind eye to the mafia’s sins for centuries, the Italian Church, like John Paul II, in recent years has become perhaps the mob’s most vocal critic. In the 1980s, Archbishop of Palermo Salvatore Pappalardo became the first cardinal to publicly denounce the mafia’s culture of violence, representing a strong break with the stance of his predecessor Cardinal Ruffini. At the same time, many Italian prelates called for the excommunication of convicted mafia leaders. In 2010, Bishop Luigi Renzo of Vibo Velentia in Calabria asked all his priests not to tolerate the participation of Mafiosi in Corpus Christi processions, a practice commonplace in Sicily that until recently the Church ignored.

For many years, prelates tolerated morally questionable leaders for reasons of convenience. Yet Vatican II, which so eloquently spoke of the Church’s need to defend the poor and vulnerable, encouraged the Church worldwide to stop thinking of its short-term privileges and fight for a more just society. One is reminded of the Church’s instrumental role in bringing down communism in the former Eastern Bloc, or its defense of human rights against dictators such as Pinochet, Duvalier, or Marcos.

That Pino Puglisi, who died as recently as 1993, is the first martyr of the mafia to be beatified is a sad reminder of how the Church often previously sacrificed its moral integrity for reasons of convenience. Yet the fact that the Church ultimately broke its ties with the mafia and gave the world a martyr as impressive as Pino Puglisi is a testament to the fortitude of Christian witness.

Pope Francis' challenge to the Franciscans

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sainthood cause of 16th-century Jesuit moves to Vatican

The following comes from the CNS:

Although it has taken more than 400 years, the sainthood cause of Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, the 16th-century missionary to China, appears to be back on track.

Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Macerata, Italy, where Father Ricci was born in 1552, formally closed the diocesan phase of the sainthood process May 10. The cause now moves to the Congregation for Saints' Causes at the Vatican.

Bishop Giuliodori had met Pope Francis, a Jesuit, at the Vatican the first week of May. He wrote in the Macerata diocesan newspaper, "I never imagined I'd be able to speak about the cause of Father Matteo Ricci with a Jesuit pope. After the great attention given by Benedict XVI, who never missed an occasion to encourage us to promote the cause, we now have the joy of placing it into the hands of a Jesuit."

The bishop said when he spoke to Pope Francis about the cause, the pope highlighted Father Ricci's "innovative method of evangelization based on the inculturation of the faith" and the missionary's courage and humility in learning from the Chinese.

Father Ricci died in Beijing May 11, 1610, and his death was followed by centuries of church debate and even disputes over the extent to which a very limited number of Confucian practices -- including veneration of ancestors -- could be seen as a tolerable part of Chinese social and cultural tradition rather than as religious practices incompatible with Christianity.

Marking the 400th anniversary of Father Ricci's death in 2010, retired Pope Benedict said Father Ricci's life and mission represented a "fortunate synthesis of proclaiming the Gospel and of dialogue with the culture of the people who are receiving it, an example of balance between doctrinal clarity and prudent pastoral action."

Father Ricci is also known for having brought European scientific instruments and knowledge to China, opening up a scientific exchange between the two continents, the now-retired pope had said. However, Father Ricci "didn't go to China to bring science, but to bring the Gospel, to bring God," the pope said.

The diocesan phase of Father Ricci's sainthood cause opened in 1984, but was almost immediately closed when questions were raised about his commitment to pure Christianity. Opened again with Vatican approval in 2010, much of the work the past three years has involved an examination by historians and theologians of Father Ricci's writings and of the writings of those who worked with him, according to the Macerata diocesan website.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Young Atheist is Led to Faith by Reading Her Catholic Foes

The following comes from the Catholic Herald:
Last Easter, when I was just beginning to explore the possibility that, despite what I had previously believed and been brought up to believe, there might be something to the Catholic faith, I read Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel. One passage in particular struck me.
Talking of the New Testament miracles and the meaning of faith, Weigel writes: “In the Catholic view of things, walking on water is an entirely sensible thing to do. It’s staying in the boat, hanging tightly to our own sad little securities, that’s rather mad.”
In the following months, that life outside the boat – the life of faith –would come to make increasing sense to me, until eventually I could no longer justify staying put. Last weekend I was baptised and confirmed into the Catholic Church.
Of course, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Faith is something my generation is meant to be casting aside, not taking up. I was raised without any religion and was eight when 9/11 took place. Religion was irrelevant in my personal life and had provided my formative years with a rolling-news backdrop of violence and extremism. I avidly read Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, whose ideas were sufficiently similar to mine that
I could push any uncertainties I had to the back of my mind. After all, what alternative was there to atheism?
As a teenager, I realised that I needed to read beyond my staple polemicists, as well as start researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view. It was here, ironically, that the problems began.
I started by reading Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, aware that it had generated controversy at the time and was some sort of attempt –futile, of course – to reconcile faith and reason. I also read the shortest book of his I could find, On Conscience. I expected – and wanted – to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism. Instead, I was presented with a God who was the Logos: not a supernatural dictator crushing human reason, but the self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth towards which our reason is oriented, and in which it is fulfilled, an entity that does not robotically control our morality, but is rather the source of our capacity for moral perception, a perception that requires development and formation through the conscientious exercise of free will.
It was a far more subtle, humane and, yes, credible perception of faith than I had expected. It didn’t lead to any dramatic spiritual epiphany, but did spur me to look further into Catholicism, and to re-examine some of the problems I had with atheism with a more
critical eye.
First, morality. Non-theistic morality, to my mind, tended towards two equally problematic camps: either it was subjective to the point of meaninglessness or, when followed logically, entailed intuitively repulsive outcomes, such as Sam Harris’s stance on torture. But the most appealing theories which could circumvent these problems, like virtue ethics, often did so by presupposing the existence of God. Before, with my caricatured understanding of theism, I’d considered that nonsensical. Now, with the more detailed understanding I was starting to develop, I wasn’t so sure.
Next, metaphysics. I soon realised that relying on the New Atheists for my counter-arguments to the existence of God had been a mistake: Dawkins, for instance, gives a disingenuously cursory treatment of St Thomas Aquinas in The God Delusion, engaging only with the summary of Aquinas’s proofs in the Five Ways – and misunderstanding those summarised proofs to boot. Acquainting myself fully with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, I found them to be a valid explanation of the natural world, and one on which atheist philosophers had failed to make a coherent assault.
What I still did not understand was how a theology that operated in harmony with human reason could simultaneously be, in Benedict XVI’s words, “a theology grounded in biblical faith”. I’d always assumed that sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), with its evident shortcomings and fallacies, was how all consistent, believing Christians read the Bible. So I was surprised to discover that this view could be refuted just as robustly from a Catholic standpoint – reading the Bible through the Church and its history, in light of Tradition – as from an atheist one.
I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts from the unnerving conclusion I was heading towards, but the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed. “The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole,” wrote Edith Stein in The Science of the Cross: “If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.” The beauty and authenticity of even the most ostensibly difficult parts of Catholicism, such as the sexual ethics, became clear once they were viewed not as a decontextualised list of prohibitions, but as essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching.
There was one remaining problem, however: my lack of familiarity with faith as something lived. To me, the whole practice and vernacular of religion – prayer, hymns, Mass – was something wholly alien, which I was reluctant to step into.
My friendships with practising Catholics finally convinced me that I had to make a decision. Faith, after all, isn’t merely an intellectual exercise, an assent to certain propositions; it’s a radical act of the will, one that engenders a change of the whole person. Books had taken me to Catholicism as a plausible conjecture, but Catholicism as a living truth I came to understand only through observing those already serving the Church within that life of grace.
I grew up in a culture that has largely turned its back on faith. It’s why I was able to drift through life with my ill-conceived atheism going unchallenged, and at least partially explains the sheer extent of the popular support for the New Atheists: for every considerate and well-informed atheist, there will be others with no personal experience of religion and no interest in the arguments who are simply drifting with the cultural tide.
As the popularity of belligerent, all-the-answers atheism wanes, however, thoughtful Christians able to explain and defend their faith will become an increasingly vital presence in the public square. I hope I, in a small way, am an example of the appeal that Catholicism can still hold in an age that at times appears intractably opposed to it.

Feast of Mary, Help of Christians!

Today is the Feast of Mary Help of Christians!

One of the greatest victories of all time took place at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, when a mighty fleet of Moslems, heretics and infidels threatened to invade and overrun all Europe. The saintly Pope Pius V called for rosary crusades and Blessed Sacrament processions everywhere. The Christian forces aboard their tiny fleet publicly prayed the Rosary and received the Sacraments before going into the battle against their enemies who outnumbered them four to one with bigger and more powerful ships. In the beginning, the Christian fleet fared badly. But suddenly, in the midst of the battle, the wind which had been against them changed in their favor. This threw the Turkish fleet into confusion, with one ship shooting another. As the battle raged into late afternoon, a great storm arose, sinking many more of the Turkish ships. finally, the few that remained fled in confusion, and the vaunted Turkish power over the Mediterranean was broken. The Christian commander, Don Juan of Austria, publicly proclaimed that his triumph was due to the powerful intercession of the Queen of the Rosary. The Venetian Senate wrote to other states, claiming that "It was not generals, nor battalions, nor arms, that brought us victory; but it was our Lady of the Rosary."

To commemorate such a miraculous victory, Pope St. Pius V ordered the celebration of the Feast of the Most Holy rosary, and the addition of the invocation "AUXILIUM CHRISTIANORUM, ORA PRO NOBIS" (HELP OF CHRISTIANS, PRAY FOR US) in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.

On many occasions through the course of history the Christian people have experienced the protection of the Virgin Mary. The title of Help of Christians, which Don Bosco associated with that of Mary, Mother of the Church is an indication of the special intervention of Mary in the most difficult trials of personal human life, of the Church, and of the whole human family.

The liturgical celebration was instituted by Pope Pius VIII in gratitude for Mary’s intervention in a critical period in the history of the Church. Driven out by violence form the See of Rome and held as a prisoner for 5 years, the Pontiff had implored the help of Mary and had invited all Christians to do the same. Contrary to all expectations, he was freed and returned to his See on 24 May, 1814. Devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, was spread far and wide through the work of St. John Bosco and continues to be propagated in the world by the Salesian family which recognizes and invokes Mary, Help of Christians as its principal patroness.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Revelation Song by Kari Jobe

Our Mother

Pope Francis praises Missionaries of Charity's 'beautiful' Vatican ministry

Pope Francis thanked the Missionaries of Charity for their work and described one of their houses located inside the Vatican “a beautiful reality” and “a school of charity.”

“I thank all those who in various ways support this beautiful reality of the Vatican,” said Pope Francis during a May 21 evening visit to celebrate the residence’s 25th anniversary.

“This house is a place that teaches charity, a school of charity, that teaches us to go out to every person, not for profit, but out of love,” he stated at the Gift of Mary House.

He noted that “at the border between the Vatican and Italy, it is a powerful reminder to all of us, to the Church, to the city of Rome, to always be more of a family, a home in which we are open to welcome, to attention, and to fraternity.”

Blessed John Paul II placed the house under the care of the sisters on May 21, 1998.

“How many people have you fed in these years, how many wounded, above all wounded spiritually, have you cared for!” he emphasized.

“My presence here tonight is to give first of all my heartfelt thanks to the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, working here for 25 years, with many volunteers, in favor of so many people in need of help, thank you!” he told them.

Around 25 homeless women are allowed to live in the residence, and the sisters feed around 60 people each day at the house.

“A home represents the most precious human wealth, that of encounter, that of the relationships between persons of different ages, cultures, and histories who live together and who, together, help one another to grow, and that is what this house has sought to be for 25 years,” said Pope Francis.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, and Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, the Pope’s personal secretary, accompanied the pontiff on his 5:30 p.m. visit.

The meeting was held in the courtyard located between the Gift of Mary House, the Palace of the Holy Office and the Atrium of the Paul VI Hall.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri and the Mother General of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Mary Prema Pierick, welcomed Pope Francis.

The sisters then placed a garland of flowers around the Pope’s neck, following Indian tradition.

Over 100 people were also at the house, including its patrons, employees, friends and guests as well as Missionaries of Charity from other different communities around Rome.

The Pope described the homeless women living at the house as its “gift” and “a gift to the Church.”

“You tell us that loving God and our neighbor is not something abstract but profoundly concrete,” he stated.

“It means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to serve and serving him concretely,” he added.

According to the Pope, people everywhere must recover the entire sense of gift, gratuity and solidarity.

“A savage capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost, give in order to get, exploitation without looking at persons, and we see the results in the crisis we are living through!” said the pontiff.

Pope Francis noted that another feature of the house is that it is “qualified as a gift of Mary” and she is an example of living charity towards our neighbor, “not out of social duty, but starting from God's love.”

Benedict XVI and Education

The following comes from the NCR:

In May comes graduation days. Commencement time offers a moment for reflection on the purpose of higher education — especially in our Catholic universities.

And every year we watch the Catholic universities to see who the commencement speakers are, and we dissect the ways they honor or detract from a university’s mission.

What a Catholic university’s mission should be is an oft-debated topic, but we needn’t look far to find a guide to measure our critique.

All three of our most recent popes, from Blessed John Paul II to Pope Francis, have had extensive experience in higher Catholic education as professors. Indeed, John Paul may well be considered the finest philosopher in the history of the papacy, and Pope Benedict XVI certainly ranks high as a theologian, particularly in his work of the ongoing rediscovery of the Fathers of the Church. In one way or another, we could refer to them as “university men.”

The Catholic University of America Press has done us a great service by publishing A Reason Open to God, with Pope Benedict’s teachings during his pontificate. The book has a foreword by the president of Catholic University, John Garvey, who has continued the fine work of his predecessor (now-Bishop David O’Connell of Trenton, N.J.) in reconstructing CUA into a truly Catholic university.

This collection is of particular value to Catholic Americans, as one of our finest boasts was that we had by far the largest collection of Catholic universities in the world, at least through the decade of the tumultuous ’60s. The majority of these universities were staffed by thriving religious congregations, both male and female.

Then, out of the blue, a revolution took place in 1967 that changed Catholic higher education radically, but we hope not forever. It was known as the Land O’ Lakes Conference, for that is where a group of Catholic college presidents and academics undertook a revolution in Catholic education that hopefully will someday (soon) be rolled back.

The Land O’ Lakes document began this way:

“The Catholic university today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with a strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence. To perform its teaching and research functions effectively, the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself. To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions of life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities, as for all universities.”

Now compare this with Pope Benedict’s address to Catholic educators at Catholic University in Washington on April 17, 2008:

“It is the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s freedom and identity and mission: a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.”

The contrast is clear. We can only hope that our bishops in each diocese with at least a nominally Catholic college or university will address the matter under the leadership of our new Pope Francis.

This book contains all of Pope Benedict’s talks on the subjects mentioned in the title, with the great majority being given in the context of pastoral visits throughout the world. I found most interesting those talks in England, on the occasion of his trip to beatify Blessed John Henry Newman, with whom Pope Benedict had a special relation as a fellow theologian. In his homily, Pope Benedict, used Blessed John Henry’s own words to describe the goal of Catholic university professors:

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious — but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”

Would that all of our universities yielded such young men and women, the earth would be ablaze with the truths of our faith!

All in all, this book deserves a place on the bookshelves of every Catholic teacher, student and parent — and its words a place in their hearts.  

Father C.J. McCloskey is a Church historian and research fellow
at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington.

Pope Francis speaks about his own faith journey

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oh Lord You´re Beautiful by Jesus Culture

On Pentecost, Francis Gives Witness... and A Manifesto to the Church

The following comes from Whispers on the Loggia:

On the Vigil of Pentecost, before a crowd of more than 200,000 in St Peter's Square and halfway down the Via della Conciliazione, the 266th Pope gave the Church what, in essence, has proven to be his first encyclical.

For close readers, a good number of the points are already well-familiar – Papa Francesco tends to recycle content far more eagerly and often than his predecessors, but does so that the message might be unmistakable and impossible to avoid. Still, in a 38-minute, mostly off-the-cuff response to several questions put to him – a nod to the teaching format in which his predecessor famously shone– starting from his own conversion story, Jorge Bergoglio laid out the full spread of his impressions on the state of the church, and his vision for the road ahead, tying together in the process the threads which have marked his two months on Peter's chair.

Even if English summaries of the talk are around, these last ten weeks should've already made more than clear that the magic or "secret" of Francis isn't something that can be fully, nor even duly, communicated in the printed word. Instead, it lies in a humanity which fuels a delivery, one whose gestures, cadences, emblematic lines and emphases– irrespective of language – have spoken to and touched a far deeper and more universal nerve.

Given the significance of the address and the way it was given, it's best to hear this straight from the horse's mouth... ergo, here's fullvideo of the message, layered over with audio of its real-time English translation by Vatican Radio: