Monday, September 30, 2013

Witness: Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB

The Magnificent Mont St Michel

The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker: 

When I lived in England I used to make my annual Benedictine retreat at the magnificent monastery of Mont St Michel. Like an embodiment of St Michael in stone–it was planted on an island in the midst of not only the sea, but surrounded by unpredictable shifting tides and miles of quicksand.
The chaotic bay with it’s sea and shifting sand was like the unpredictable and irrational forces of evil. In the midst of the chaos that could swallow you up, Mont St Michel stands on a rock and rises up like a monumental angel of stability and victory. The walls of the village at the first level, then the village itself–representing ordinary life surrounded by the security and defense of faith. Above the village rises the medieval monastery–an unimaginable glory higher and higher as if the creator himself decided to make a sandcastle that would last forever.
At the summit is a soaring Gothic church, and hidden away is the jewel of it all–the small cloister–built delicately and enclosed for the life of prayer and solitude yet open to the spiritual sky and open to the angels.
I first stayed there on my hitch hiking pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem. I could not sleep the first night in my narrow cell. Finally I drifted off, then at three in the morning–like an alarm clock–I woke wide awake and alert and aware of a spiritual entity at the foot of my bed. I could see nothing, but sensed a being some seven feet high filled with light and benevolence. I knew it was my guardian angel, and knew his presence not only then, but  recognized it as being with me for a long time, and was assured of his presence on my pilgrimage.

Canonization Date Set for Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII: April 27, 2014 (Divine Mercy Sunday)

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday morning held the Public Ordinary Consistory for the forthcoming Canonization of Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II. During the course of the Consistory in the Vatican's Consistory Hall, the Pope decreed that his two predecessors will be raised to Sainthood on April 27, 2014, the day on which the Church celebrates the Second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dr. Scott Hahn: "The Evangelical Catholic Moment?"

A Great Chasm: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Sunday Readings

The following comes from Scott Hahn:

Amos 6:14-7
The rich and powerful are visited with woe and exile in today’s Liturgy - not for their wealth but for their refusal to share it; not for their power but for their indifference to the suffering at their door.
The complacent leaders in today’s First Reading feast on fine foods and wines, reveling while the house of Joseph, the kingdom of Israel (see Amos 5:6), collapses around them.
The rich man in today’s Gospel also lives like a king - dressed in royal purple and fine linen (see 1 Maccabees 8:14).
The rich man symbolizes Israel’s failure to keep the Old Covenant, to heed the commandments of Moses and the prophets. This is the sin of the rulers in today’s First Reading. Born to the nation God favored first, they could claim Abraham as their father. But for their failure to give - their inheritance is taken away.
The rulers are exiled from their homeland. The rich man is punished with an exile far greater - eternity with a “great chasm” fixed between himself and God.
In this world, the rich and powerful make a name for themselves (see Genesis 11:4) and dine sumptuously, while the poor remain anonymous, refused an invitation to their feasts.
But notice that the Lord today knows Lazarus by name, and Joseph in his sufferings - while the leaders and the rich man have no name.
Today’s Liturgy is a call to repentance - to heed the warning of One who was raised from the dead. To lay hold of the eternal life He promises, we must pursue righteousness, keep the commandment of love, as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle.
“The Lord loves the just,” we sing in today’s Psalm.
And in this Eucharist we have a foretaste of the love that will be ours in the next life - when He will raise the lowly to the heavenly banquet with Abraham and the prophets (see Luke 13:28), where we too will rest our heads on the bosom of our Lord (see John 13:23).
‘Who is the Rich Man’
Very few of us can be numbered among the rich and the powerful who have the power to exploit the poor.
So how are we to apply to our own lives the readings for the 25th and 26th Sundays in Ordinary Time, which are so preoccupied with questions of social justice, wealth and poverty?
These readings remind us that the law of love (see John 15:12Romans 13:8) means that each of us in some way will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor.
As the rich man learns in the parable of Lazarus - the distance between ourselves and God in the next life may be the distance we put between ourselves and the poor in this life (seeMatthew 25:31-46James 2:8,14-17).
But we also need to hear these readings in context of the Gospel message in recent months. Recall that among the stories we’ve heard is that of the teacher who wanted to know, “Who is my neighbor?” (see Luke 10:25-37) and of the rich fool who tried to store up earthly treasures (see Luke 12:13-21).
We may not be “rich men” or exploiters of the poor, but each of us should take to heart the persistent message of the Liturgy - that what we have and desire to have can separate us from God and our neighbor; that our possessions can come to possess us; that true riches are to be found in sharing what we have with the poor; and that this will gain us what we truly desire - the inheritance of treasure in heaven.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Michael Cumbie explains the Mass

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fr. Barron comments on CATHOLICISM: The New Evangelization

Pope Francis’ revolutionary vision

The following comes from Michael Coren at The New York Daily News:

A heady stew of wishful thinking, ignorance, and sheer malice by the mainstream press has left the impression that Pope Francis has suddenly rejected Church teaching on abortion, divorce, contraception and same-sex marriage. Sorry, liberals and secularists, but that ain’t so.

What he did say in an extended interview is genuinely revolutionary and far more interesting — that the Church’s conversation with the world has to be radically reshaped. Or, to put it another way, there cannot even be a conversation unless and until the Church says yes before it says no.

This, remember, is the Pope. As Catholics, we believe that he is the direct successor to St. Peter, given the keys to the kingdom by Jesus Christ while He was here, physically, on Earth amongst us. He’s not infallible when he gives opinions, or interviews — that only occurs on those rare occasions that he speaks on matters of faith and morals ex cathedra or “from the throne” — but his views are still profoundly significant for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

So what are we to say, what to conclude? The Pope is, he reminds us in the interview, a loving, faithful son of the Church. As such, he will not and cannot change fundamental teachings on life, sexuality and morality. What he can do, and has done, is to remind us that the Church is primarily about Jesus, love, understanding, grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness cannot be given unless it’s requested; it takes, as it were, two to play the game.

What Francis has urged, though, is a new painting. Black and white is vital, but the true picture can only be understood through a whole variety of colors. So this is a Pope of nuance and backstory, of delicacy and empathy of delivery. Truth needs to be sung rather than shouted, and he is telling the world — and particularly those who have left the Church and those who hide behind its rules instead of being liberated by them — that while we cannot compromise on truth, we must not compromise on love.

On the gay issue, for example, we are all so much more than our sexuality, and are all supremely and superbly loved by God who is our creator. Marriage is absolute, but to dislike or even hate someone because they are gay is not only wrong, it is anti-Catholic.

Francis is clearly explaining that no gay person will give any attention to a Church that appears to close doors rather than greet newcomers. They may reject the message, but at least encourage them to hear it.

That is the papal message, and while the details are indeed difficult, the overall plot is simple and clear.
Similarly with divorce; the Church remains clear on marriage, but has to reach out to and understand those within marriage who do not stay together.

And again with abortion. We know what the Church believes, says the Pope, but need to communicate the Gospel of life in a more effective manner.

There are conservative Catholics who feel betrayed by all this, but they have got it wrong. Let me give you an example. Recently, Francis telephoned a single mom who had kept her baby and told her she was brave for doing so. Some right-wing Catholics condemned him, said it was wrong to call “brave” what was merely natural and right. What nonsense! Of course, it was brave. It was ethical, moral and, yes, right, but also brave.

Francis sees the human within the theological, the person within the religious, the living, breathing, confused, confusing man or woman within the moral law.

This will be a more inclusive papacy leading to a more inclusive Church, and the larger the party the more challenging it is to get along with and agree with everyone. But the largest parties are the most fun, and also make the most noise.

Coren, an author and TV host, can be reached at

The Anchoress: The Key to Pope Francis

The following comes from Elizabeth Scalia:
The Holy Father continues to speak with a sharp sense of urgency:
“Yes, you have to come to know Jesus in the Catechism – but it is not enough to know Him with the mind: it is a step. However, it is necessary to get to know Jesus in dialogue with Him, talking with Him in prayer, kneeling. If you do not pray, if you do not talk with Jesus, you do not know Him. You know things about Jesus, but you do not go with that knowledge, which He gives your heart in prayer. Know Jesus with the mind – the study of the Catechism: know Jesus with the heart – in prayer, in dialogue with Him. This helps us a good bit, but it is not enough. There is a third way to know Jesus: it is by following Him. Go with Him, walk with Him.”
It is necessary, “to go, to walk along the streets, journeying.” It is necessary, said Pope Francis, “to know Jesus in the language of action.” Here, then, is how you can really know Jesus: with these “three languages ​​- of the mind, heart and action.” If, then, “I know Jesus in these ways,” he said in conclusion, “I involve myself with Him”​​:
“One cannot know Jesus without getting oneself involved with Him, without betting your life [on] Him. When so many people – including us – pose this question: ‘But, who is He?’, The Word of God responds, ‘You want to know who He is? Read what the Church tells you about Him, talk to Him in prayer and walk the street with him. Thus, will you know who this man is.’ This is the way! Everyone must make his choice.”
This reminds me of what are purported to be Chesterton’s last words:
Within the Spadaro Interview, one comment of Francis’ hasn’t been given much attention, but it is important. It is part of the key to the man and all that motivates him:
“I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the Rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In the evening then, between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day.
The prayer is the key. Without it, we can know the Catechism back and forth, and we can seek to serve others and look for Christ in each other, but the root of all of that — the root that feeds our understanding of the books and helps us to see Christ in others, and to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit — is prayer. Daily prayer is what nourishes all of the rest: feeds it, supports it, connects it, grounds it, as Mary grounded Martha.
If you find yourself an admirer of Francis who doesn’t know what to do about it, start with prayer.
And if you’re tepid about Francis — if he scares you a bit, and you’re not sure what he is about — start with prayer, too.
All prayer is good; like Francis, I love the Divine Office — I love praying with and through the psalms. If you’re not sure how to do that, you can learn here, or check out Daria Sockey’s excellent The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Help My Unbelief by Audrey Assad

Archbishop Chaput: Modern heart must be won by radical love

 Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said the Holy Father’s recent lengthy interview calls attention to the modern world as a “missionary field” that needs witnesses to Christ’s saving power.

“Among the many vital things the Pope reminds us of in his interview is the new and drastically different condition of the modern world that God seeks to save,” the archbishop said in a Sept. 25 column.

What Catholics need to realize is that the world we live is “morally fractured,” the archbishop explained, meaning that many people “no longer have that common vocabulary” that would allow for a fruitful discussion about issues such as abortion and sexuality.

“The modern heart can only be won back by a radical witness of Christian discipleship – a renewed kind of shared community life obedient to God’s Commandments, but also on fire with the Beatitudes lived more personally and joyfully by all of us,” he said.

When the Pope’s 12,000-word interview published in English last week, Archbishop Chaput said he was unable to read it immediately due to travel, but he was greeted by an inbox full of emails – ranging from concerned to gloating to grateful – when he returned to Philadelphia.

While some people “grasped at the interview like a lifeline – or a vindication,” the majority of emails were from concerned Catholics who “felt confused by the media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues.”

Archbishop Chaput rejected the idea that Pope Francis was somehow turning away from Catholic teaching and said that his flock’s response can be a “useful lesson” for Catholics.

“The Holy Father asks none of us to abandon the task of bringing the world to Jesus Christ. Our witness matters. Every unborn child saved, every marriage strengthened, every immigrant helped, every poor person served, matters,” he said.

He said that when a priest in his archdiocese asked the congregation at Sunday Mass how many had “heard about” the Pope’s interview, nearly everyone raised their hands. However, when the priest asked how many had “actually read” the interview only five people raised their hands. 

Rather than “taking the mass media coverage of the Catholic Church at face value,” Archbishop Chaput wrote, Catholics need to “actually read the Holy Father’s interview for ourselves, and pray over it, and then read it again, especially in light of the Year of Faith.”

If the Church is, as the Holy Father said in his interview, “a field hospital,” then the goal of evangelization should be “to create a space of beauty and mercy; to accompany those who suffer; to understand the nature of their lives; to care for and heal even those who reject us,” the archbishop said.

Nothing we do, he added, will be fruitful “unless we give ourselves to the whole Gospel with our whole heart.”

The full text of Archbishop Chaput’s column may be read here. The interview with Pope Francis can be found here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CATHOLICISM: The New Evangelization

Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go: On My Conversion to Catholicism

It seems ironic that a free spirit like me -- who doesn't like hierarchy, routine, and structure -- ended up in the Catholic tradition.
The following comes from Karen Beattie at the Catholic Channel:

There is no way to "return to the faith of your childhood," not really, not unless you've just woken from a decades-long and absolutely literal coma . . . If you believe at fifty what you believed at fifteen, then you have not lived—or have denied the reality of your life. ~ Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss
The first few months after our then two-and-a-half-year-old foster daughter was placed in our home, she resisted affection. When I rocked her to sleep at night, she would wiggle away from me, never snuggling face-to-face or chest-to-chest. I would hold her tighter until she gave up and leaned against me.
One night, when my husband David was out of town, D's grief at her previous losses (of her birth parents, of her former foster family) seemed too much for her to bear. She had a meltdown when I told her that she had to stop brushing her teeth (she had been brushing for ten minutes, rather than go to bed). She threw her Barbie toothbrush across the slate bathroom floor and started wailing so loudly that I feared the neighbors would think I was torturing her. I tried to pick her up, all thirty-five pounds of her toddler chubbiness, but she was too strong and she pounded my chest until I let her go.
I followed her around the condo for thirty minutes, trying to calm her down. Finally, I corralled her into her bedroom and closed the door. I sat on her pink flowered rug and once again tried to hold her. She was so exhausted that she let me squeeze my arms around her chubby brown limbs. Still, she squirmed, but I held her tight, I felt the pounding of her heart, and the sweat on her cheek.
"Are you sad?" I asked. She nodded her head as she continued to sob.
"You're safe here," I said. "You have so many people who love you. So many people. I will hold you tight until you believe it."
During the year following her placement with us, we tried to keep a regular schedule. We put her into a good structured daycare. At home we created routines and rituals. We ate lunch at noon, had naptime at 2:00, and bedtime was strictly at 8:00 pm. The bedtime rituals were always the same.
Within the combination of our embrace and solid structure, she didn't have to worry about what was coming next. She had the boundaries she needed in order to thrive. A container to work out her grief. A safe place to feel what she needed to feel.
It's not just hurting children who thrive in structure. What might seem like stifling limitations at first can be a path to freedom. Poets work within structure. Writers have a word count they need stay within. Artists learn the rules of painting realistically before they can launch into abstraction.
I think of this when I try to explain to people why I became Catholic.
There are many reasons why I converted. But it seems ironic that a free spirit like me, who doesn't like hierarchy, routine, and structure ended up in the Catholic tradition.
But I changed. And circumstances changed.
The non-denominational churches that I had attended for years, and where I had learned so much and found deep community, were now like a baggy, shapeless coat. While I once thrived in unstructured, ever-changing worship services, now they left me feeling empty and bored and anxious. While at one time I craved long exegetical sermons that fed my intellectual hunger, now I felt I would never get all of my questions answered—and that God was a total mystery to me. Where I once longed for the newest and latest, I now longed for the depth and stability of tradition.

Fr. Larry Richards: "Real Men Love Jesus Christ!"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Imagine Sisters Movement

George Weigel on "The Christ-Centered Pope"

The following comes from National Review:

Perhaps the most revealing detail in Pope Francis’s lengthy interview, conducted by the Italian Jesuit Antonio Spadaro and published yesterday in English translation in the Jesuit journal America, is the pontiff’s reflection on one of his favorite Roman walks, prior to his election:
When I had to come to to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of the] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. . . . This is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.
The Calling of St. Matthew is an extraordinary painting in many ways, including Caravaggio’s signature use of light and darkness to heighten the spiritual tension of a scene. In this case, though, the chiaroscuro setting is further intensified by a profoundly theological artistic device: The finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew, seems deliberately to invoke the finger of God as rendered by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thus Caravaggio, in depicting the summons of the tax collector, unites creation and redemption, God the Father and the incarnate Son, personal call and apostolic mission.

That is who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is: a radically converted Christian disciple who has felt the mercy of God in his own life and who describes himself, without intending any dramatic effect, as “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Having heard the call to conversion and responded to it, Bergoglio wants to facilitate others’ hearing of that call, which never ceases to come from God through Christ and the Church.

And that, Bergoglio insists, is what the Church is for: The Church is for evangelization and conversion. Those who have found the new pope’s criticism of a “self-referential Church” puzzling, and those who will find something shockingly new in his critical comments, in his recent interview, about a Church reduced “to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” haven’t been paying sufficient attention. Six years ago, when the Catholic bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean met at the Brazilian shrine of Aparecida to consider the future, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio, was one of the principal intellectual architects of the bishops’ call to put evangelization at the center of Catholic life, and to put Jesus Christ at the center of evangelization. The Latin American Church, long used to being “kept,” once by legal establishment and then by cultural tradition, had to rediscover missionary zeal by rediscovering the Lord Jesus Christ. And so the Latin American bishops, led by Bergoglio, made in their final report a dramatic proposal that amounted to a stinging challenge to decades, if not centuries, of ecclesiastical complacency:
The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats. . . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. . . . 
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The 21st-century proclamation of Christ must take place in a deeply wounded and not infrequently hostile world. In another revealing personal note, Francis spoke of his fondness for Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion, one of the most striking religious paintings of the 20th century. Chagall’s Jesus is unmistakably Jewish, the traditional blue and white tallis or prayer-shawl replacing the loincloth on the Crucified One. But Chagall’s Christ is also a very contemporary figure, for around the Cross swirl the death-dealing political madnesses and hatreds of the 20th century. And so the pope’s regard for Chagall’s work is of a piece with his description of the Catholic Church of the 21st century as a kind of field hospital on a battlefield strewn with the human wreckage caused by false ideas of the human person and false claims of what makes for happiness. Thus Francis in his interview on the nature of the Church:
I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.
Read the rest here. 

Francis: A Religious Order Pope

“Religious men and women are prophets,” says the pope. “They are those who have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity. In this sense, the vows cannot end up being caricatures; otherwise, for example, community life becomes hell, and chastity becomes a way of life for unfruitful bachelors. The vow of chastity must be a vow of fruitfulness. In the church, the religious are called to be prophets in particular by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophecy. This does not mean opposing the hierarchical part of the church, although the prophetic function and the hierarchical structure do not coincide. I am talking about a proposal that is always positive, but it should not cause timidity. Let us think about what so many great saints, monks and religious men and women have done, from St. Anthony the Abbot onward. Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it.... Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’ But in reality, the charism of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.”  

(Pope Francis in America Magazine Interview)

Pope Francis: "Mary, look upon us"

(Vatican Radio) The Pope on Sunday celebrated Holy Mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria, in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. 

Below, please find the Vatican Radio’s translation of the Holy Father’s homily at the Mass: 

The grace of our Lord be with you always.

Today is realised that desire that I announced in St. Peter's Square, before the summer, to be able to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria.

1. I come here to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and commitments, ideals and aspirations of your island, and to confirm you in the Faith. Even here in Cagliari, as in the whole of Sardinia, there are difficulties — there are so many! — problems and concerns: I think, in particular, of the lack of work and its precariousness, and therefore the uncertainty for the future. Sardinia, your beautiful region, suffers many situations of poverty, exacerbated by its condition as an island. The loyal cooperation of everyone is necessary, with the commitment of institutional leaders — even in the Church — to ensure the fundamental rights of persons and families, and to grow more fraternal and united. To ensure the right to work, to bring home bread, bread earned by work! I am close to you, I remember you in prayer, and I encourage you to persevere in your witness of the human and Christian values so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this land and the people. Always keep alight the light of hope!

2. I come among you to place myself, with you, at the feet of the Madonna, who gives us his Son. I know that Mary, our Mother, is in your heart, as evidenced by the Shrine, where many generations of Sardinians have come - and continue to come! - To invoke the protection of Our Lady of Bonaria, the Great Patroness of the Island. Here you bring the joys and sufferings of this land, of its families, and even of those children who live far away, many of whom went away with great sorrow and nostalgia to find a job and a future for themselves and their loved ones. Today, all of us gathered here want to thank Mary because she is always close to us; we want to renew our trust in her, and our love for her. 

The first reading which we heard shows us Mary in prayer in the Upper Room together with the Apostles. Mary prays, prays together with the community of disciples, and teaches us to have full confidence in God, in His mercy. This is the power of prayer! We must not tire of knocking on the God’s door. Let us bring our whole life, every day, to the heart of God through Mary! Knock at the door of the heart of God. 

In the Gospel we grasp especially the last look of Jesus upon His Mother (cf. Jn 19:25-27). From the Cross Jesus looks at His Mother and entrusted the apostle John to her, saying, “This is your son.” In John we're all here, too, and Jesus’ look of love entrusts us to the maternal guardianship of the mother. Mary will have remembered another look of love, when she was a young girl: the gaze of God the Father, who had looked upon her humility, her littleness. Mary teaches us that God does not abandon us, [that God] can do great things even with our weakness. Let us have faith in Him! Let us knock at the door of His heart!

3. And the third thought: today I have come among you, indeed we have all come together, to meet the gaze of Mary, because there, there is something like a reflection of the gaze of the Father, which made her the Mother of God, and the look of the Son on the Cross, which made her our Mother. And with that gaze Mary is looking upon us today. We need her tender look, her maternal gaze that knows us better than anyone else, her gaze full of compassion and care. Mary, today we want to say to you: Mother, look upon us! Your gaze leads us to God, your look is a good gift from the Father, who awaits us at every turn of our journey; it is a gift from Jesus Christ on the Cross, who takes upon Himself our suffering, our struggles, our sin. And in order to meet this loving Father, today we say: Mother, look upon us! Let us all say it together: Mother, look upon us! Mother, look upon us!

On the journey, which is often difficult, we are not alone, we are so many, we are one people, and the gaze of Our Lady helps us to look around us in a brotherly manner. Let's look at ourselves in a more fraternal way! Mary teaches us to have that look that seeks to welcome, to guide, to protect. We learn to look at each other under the maternal gaze of Mary! There are people who we instinctively give less attention to, people who instead have most need of it: the most abandoned, the sick, those who have nothing to live on, those who do not know Jesus, young people who are in trouble, the young who can’t find work. We should not be afraid to go out and look at our brothers and sisters through the eyes of Our Lady, She invites us to be true brothers. And we do not allow anything or anyone to come between us and the gaze of the Madonna. Mother, look upon us! No one hide from it! Our childlike heart knows to defend it from so many windbags who promise illusions; from those who have a greedy look for easy life, from the promises of those who can’t fulfil them. They can’t steal Mary’s gaze from us, which is full of tenderness, which gives us strength, makes us united in solidarity among ourselves. Let us all say, “Mother, look upon us! Mother, look upon us! Mother, look upon us!”

May Our Lady of Bonaria accompany you always in your life. 

Pope to the Youth: A young person without hope is not a young person

September 23, 2013 ( It seemed like another World Youth Day, except this wasn't Rio, but the Italian island of Sardinia. The Pope met with thousands of young people during his apostolic visit. Surrounded by applause, the Pope addressed the crowd directly, and at times mixing his Italian with Spanish.   


“Some of your 'preguntas,' or rather questions. I guess I also speak a type of 'dialect' right?"     

The Pope called on the youth to not abandon the Church. He specifically talked about a common trend that needs to stop. 

“While reading your questions, I noticed this. The Sacrament of Confirmation. What's the name of this Sacrament? Is it Confirmation? No. The name has changed to the 'farewell' Sacrament. After this, youths leave the Church. Right? This is a failed experience.” 

The Pope then encouraged them to have real hope for the future

“As young people you can't and shouldn't lose hope. It's simply part of your nature. A young person without hope isn't young. It's someone who has aged too soon.” 

Clearly referencing the use of drugs and alcohol, the Pope warned about the dangers that come when one looks for hope in all the wrong places. 

“You know, these merchants of death. Those who sell death, offering a new route when you're sad, without hope, without confidence, or strength. Please do not sell your youth to these death dealers. You know what I'm talking about. All of you understand. Don't sell your life.” 

It was 60 years ago that the Pope felt a strong calling to become a priest. He talked about this personal experience during his visit. 

“I don't regret it. I do not! You may ask, -why?- Is it because I feel like Tarzan and I'm strong enough to keep going? No. I don't regret it because at all times, even in the darkest moments of sin, of weakness and failure, I looked toward Jesus and I believed in Him. He has never abandoned me.” 

To thank him for his visit, a youth group performed for the Pope, singing and dancing to traditional music of the island of Sardinia. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pope Francis and the Prodigal People

I’ve been reading some of the reaction to the ground-shaking interview with Pope Francis. Not all of it has been warm.
Traditionalists, in particular, find it worrisome, and some conservative commentators have been downright hostile.
It seems to me they are missing the point.  The Holy Father was speaking to the world, but he was also speaking to one particular part of the world—those who have felt, for far too long, like outcasts.  Again and again, the message coming through the pope’s interview is: you have not been cast out.  Come back.  There is a way.  Let us help you find it.
He’s speaking to the lapsed, the wandering, the angry, the searching.  He’s calling out to those who have stormed off.
His vision, it seems to me, is not of a smaller church. He sees something larger, grander, greater.
In his interview, he said “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”
Francis envisions not a chapel, but a cathedral.
His remarks speak to those he wants to be a part of it.  Knock down the walls.  Raise the roof.  Make room for more.
Here comes everyone.
The pope’s interview was targeting the indifferent Catholic who attends Mass sporadically and feels disenfranchised or shunned.
He was speaking to the couples who have been refused a wedding because they are living together.
He was speaking to the parents who were denied an infant’s baptism because they were unmarried.
He was speaking to gays whose behavior has been called “intrinsically disordered” and who feel, as a result, defective and unwelcome.
He was speaking to Catholics like one family member I know, who has stopped going to Mass because he and his wife conceived a child through IVF.
Pope Francis was speaking to those living with the heartbreak of abortion and the alienation of divorce.
He was speaking to those who have been away from the confessional, and the communion rail, and the grace of the sacramental life of the Church, because of a harsh word muttered through the grail.  He was addressing those who feel guilty or ashamed or afraid of what the priest might say.   “The confessional is not a torture chamber,” the pope explained.
He was also speaking to atheists and skeptics and non-believers who again and again in the last few weeks have launched a conversation in social media with the surprising words, “I really like this pope.”
He was engaging the disengaged, inviting those who feel disinvited—and, almost overnight, he has changed the public perception of the institutional Church.
In short, Pope Francis wasn’t preaching to the choir. He was preaching to those in the periphery—the ones lurking just outside the doors of the church, wondering whether it’s okay to come in from the cold.  Maybe they’re sitting in the parking lot, nursing a hurt; maybe they’re watching from across the street, harboring a grudge.  The pope was inviting them to come home, come back, step inside, lay down your burden.  The Church, he was saying, is more than what you may think.
She is the Body of Christ. And all of you, he was adding, are a part of it.
This pontificate is only six months old. There will be many more months, and God willing, many more years for Francis to extend his hand to those who are already close to the heart of the Church.  But I think this landmark interview was intended for those who are not there yet—but could be.  It’s a first step.
The gospel two Sundays ago of the prodigal son should give all of us a sense of what is unfolding right now, with its message of mercy.  Francis is embarking on a great outreach, the results of which are impossible to predict. But he is undertaking something extraordinary.  The father is seeking the lost.
Take heart.  And make room.  Once the door is open, and the call has been heard, who knows who may walk in?
“My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”

Pope Francis: The Healer

Images of Pope Francis in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 22, 2013.  This is what it's all about.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad

Hat tip to Brutally Honest:
The singer is Audrey Assad and she reveals a little about herself in this dated interview with Tony Rossi:
In 2007, you converted to Catholicism. The Church, a lot of times, gets knocked for being behind AudreyAssadthe times, having too many rules. Yet you chose to embrace this Church. Why? How did you see through the fog of what the culture says about the Church to find there was something of value there?

I met a Catholic. I was taught a lot of untruth about the Catholic Church -- you know, the classic "whore of Babylon" and Catholics aren't Christians, all that stuff. And growing up in Italian-Irish Catholic New Jersey, it was certainly plausible because everybody that I knew was Catholic and most of them didn't go to Mass, so I just assumed things. I think what enabled me to see through that was a person, a living person who shattered all those pre-conceived notions with his knowledge and his zeal and, foremost, his passion for Christ. That was what initially jolted me out of my opinions about the Catholic Church. Then from there, the teachings slowly just won me. It was the Eucharist ultimately, the teaching on Communion, that won my heart. I think I knew at the beginning when I started reading about it that if that was true, I had to sign up for that.
In case you're wondering, and because the song is made even more beautiful when you pray the lyrics, here they are:
From the love of my own comfort 
From the fear of having nothing 
From a life of worldly passions 
Deliver me O God 

From the need to be understood 
From the need to be accepted 
From the fear of being lonely 
Deliver me O God 
Deliver me O God 

And I shall not want, I shall not want 
when I taste Your goodness I shall not want 
when I taste Your goodness I shall not want 

From the fear of serving others 
From the fear of death or trial 
From the fear of humility 
Deliver me O God 
Deliver me O God

Parable of the Unjust Steward

Pope Francis: Social communications is for bringing others to Christ

From Vatican Radio
Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is “to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes.”

The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ.

“The challenge is to rediscover, through the means of social communication as well as by personal contact, the beauty that is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith and of the encounter with Christ,” he said.
Below is the full text of Pope Francis' remarks

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I greet you and I thank you for your work and commitment to the important sector of social communications – but having spoken to Archbishop Celli, I must change “sector” to the important “dimension of life” which is that of social communications. I wish to thank Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli for the greeting that he extended to me on your behalf. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

First of all: the importance of social communications for the Church. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica. This anniversary is more than a commemoration; the Decree expresses the Church’s attentiveness towards communication and all its instruments, which are also important in the work of evangelisation. But towards its instruments – communication is not an instrument! It’s something else. In the last few decades, the various means of communication have evolved significantly, but the Church’s concern remains the same, taking on new forms and expressions. The world of social communications, more and more, has become a “living environment” for many, a web where people communicate with each other, expanding the boundaries of their knowledge and relationships (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the 2013 World Communications Day). I wish to underline these positive aspects, although we are all aware of the limitations and harmful factors which also exist.

In this context – and this is the second reflection – we must ask ourselves: what role should the Church have in terms of its own practical means of communication? In every situation, beyond technological considerations, I believe that the goal is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today, in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts, and their hopes. They are men and women who sometimes feel let down by a Christianity that to them appears sterile, struggling precisely to communicate the depth of meaning that faith gives. We do in fact witness today, in the age of globalisation, a growing sense of disorientation and isolation; we see, increasingly, a loss of meaning to life, an inability to connect with a “home”, and a struggle to build meaningful relationships. It is therefore important to know how to dialogue, and how to enter, with discernment, into the environments created by new technologies, into social networks, in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses, and encourages. Do not be afraid to be this presence, expressing your Christian identity as you become citizens of this environment. A Church that follows this path learns how to walk with everybody! And there’s also an ancient rule of the pilgrims, that Saint Ignatius includes, and that’s why I know it! In one of his rules, he says that anyone accompanying a pilgrim must walk at the same pace as the pilgrim, not ahead and not lagging behind. And this is what I mean: a Church that accompanies the journey, that knows how to walk as people walk today. This rule of the pilgrim will help us to inspire things.

The third: it’s a challenge that we all face together in this environment of social communications, and the problem is not principally technological. We must ask ourselves: are we capable of bringing Christ into this area, or rather, of bringing about the encounter with Christ? To walk with the pilgrim through life, but as Jesus walked with the pilgrims of Emmaus, warming their hearts and leading them to the Lord? Are we capable of communicating the face of a Church which can be a “home” to everyone? We talk about the Church behind closed doors. But this is more than a Church with open doors, it’s more! Finding “home” together, building “home”, building the Church. It’s this: building the Church as we walk. A challenge! To lead to the rediscovery, through means of social communication as well as by personal contact, of the beauty which is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith, the beauty of the encounter with Christ. Even in the context of social communications, the Church is required to bring warmth, to warm hearts. Do our presence and plans measure up to this requirement, or do we remain mired in technicalities? We hold a precious treasure that is to be passed on, a treasure that brings light and hope. They are greatly needed. All this, however, requires a careful and thorough formation in this area for priests, for religious men and women, for laity. The great digital continent does not only involve technology, but is made up of real men and women who bring with them what they carry inside, their hopes, their suffering, their concerns, their pursuit of truth, beauty, and good. We need to show and bring Christ to others, sharing these joys and hopes, like Mary, who brought Christ to the hearts of men and women; we need to pass through the clouds of indifference without losing our way; we need to descend into the darkest night without being overcome and disorientated; we need to listen to the illusions of many, without being seduced; we need to share their disappointments, without becoming despondent; to sympathise with those whose lives are falling apart, without losing our own strength and identity (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of Brazil, 27 July 2013, n. 4). This is the walk. This is the challenge.

Dear friends, the concern and the presence of the Church in the world of social communications is important in order to dialogue with the men and women of today and bring them to meet Christ, but the encounter with Christ is personal. It cannot be manipulated. In these times we see a great temptation within the Church, which is spiritual harassment: the manipulation of conscience; a theological brainwashing which in the end leads to an encounter with Christ which is purely nominal, not with the Live Person of Christ. In a person’s encounter with Christ, both Christ and the person need to be involved! Not what’s wanted by the “spiritual engineer”, who wants to manipulate people. This is the challenge. To bring about the encounter with Christ in the full knowledge, though, that we ourselves are means of communication, and that the fundamental problem is not the acquisition of the latest technologies, although these are necessary to a valid, contemporary presence. It is necessary to be absolutely clear that the God in whom we believe, who loves all men and women intensely, wants to reveal himself through the means at our disposal, however poor they are, because it is he who is at work, he who transforms, and he who saves us.

Let us all pray that the Lord may warm our hearts and sustain us in the engaging mission of bringing him to the world. I ask you for your prayers, because this is my mission too, and I assure you of my blessing.