Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pope: even public sinners like Matthew are called to follow Jesus

Benedict XVI stressed that Jesus calls also “publicans, prostitutes”, and “people of low social status". They are transformed into witnesses of closeness with him.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Even a “detestable” tax collector, like the apostle Matthew used to be, an associate of “thieves, unjust people, adulterers”, is not excluded from friendship with Jesus. On the contrary, his “readiness... to respond to the call” leads him to change his life and to become a “model”, so that the “marvellous effects” of “God’s mercy” shine through his existence.
At today’s general audience, held in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Benedict XVI offered a lively and profound sketch of the evangelist Matthew, also known as Levi, the man who laid down the first gospel in the Hebrew language.
After presenting historical data about Matthew-Levi, a collector at Capernaum, the pope expressed his reflections. Above all, there is the fact that “Jesus welcomed into a group of his intimate friends a man who, according to the ideas in vogue in Israel at the time, was held to be a public sinner. Matthew, in fact, not only handled money held to be impure because of its provenance from people foreign to the people of God, but he also collaborated with a foreign authority that was hatefully greedy, whose taxes could be determined in an arbitrary way.” The conclusion the pope was driving at was immediately clear: “Jesus excludes no one from his friendship. In fact, just as he was sitting at table in the house of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who professed to be scandalized by the fact that he was in disreputable company, Jesus made this important statement: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’ (Mk 2:17).” And again: “In the figure of Matthew, then, the Gospels offer us a real paradox: those who are apparently farthest away from holiness can actually become a model of welcome of God’s mercy so that its marvellous effects can be seen in his existence.”
The call of Matthew, like that of the other apostles, highlights the fact that the call to follow Jesus can happen to anybody, even to “people of low social status, while they attend to their mundane work”.
However, the conclusion is not of a “placatory” Christianity: the call of Jesus marks the beginning of transformation and conversion. The painting of Caravaggio of the call of Matthew (in the church of St Luigi dei Francesi), that the pope mentions, is very eloquent in this regard.
Benedict XVI continued: “To the call of Jesus, Matthew responds with an instant ‘he got up and followed him’. The tightness of the sentence clearly shows the readiness with which Matthew responds to the call. For him, this means leaving everything, especially that which used to guarantee him a secure source of income, even if often unjust and dishonourable. Evidently Matthew understood that closeness with Jesus did not allow him to persevere in activities disapproved by God. The application to the present is easily intuited: even today, attachment to things that are incompatible with following Jesus – like dishonestly acquired wealth – is not admissible. Once He said, without half measures: ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ (Mt 19:21). And this is just what Matthew did: he got up and followed up. In this ‘getting up’, it is fair to read the detachment from a situation of sin and also the conscious adherence to a new existence. Not for nothing is the Greek verb used by the evangelist, anastás, the same used elsewhere in the New Testament to express the resurrection of Jesus!”

Beheading of John the Baptist

Today's feast, and the Gospel reading makes me feel uneasy.
Herod is having an affair with his brother's wife, the daughter is involved too. The wife wants to kill John who has denounced the relationship as immoral and against God's law.
One is left wondering if there is incest in this royal court, why is Salome dancing for her mother's lover and his officers? Is that the daughter, described as "a girl" already corrupted by the murderous, adulterous mother. Seedy, very seedy!
What type of woman is this that gets her daughter to dance for the head of her enemy.
What type of man is Herod that he imprisons John and keeps him alive, is attracted by his teaching and yet kills him for a child?

This 19th century provincial Russian icon is one of my favourites, the border is a reddish orange, not exactly a calming colour, in fact it is slightly menacing. The colours are the colours of fire; red, orange, yellow, the fire of judgement perhaps? The drawing is crude but the palette is sublte, it combines menace and beauty. John is winged as the "Angel of the Desert", angel meaning messenger. The background scenes on Johns right are the angel and Zacharius and below the birth of the Baptist, on the right Salome receiving the head from Herod and below the beheading watched by Salome.
On the silver leaf on the right is scaffolding presumably for building the entrance to the coming kingdom of God, the heavenly city, whilst the dark earthly city sits in depth of the valley; the heavenly above John's annunciation and birth, the earthly above Salome and her dark deeds. All happens under the sight of God. The Baptist is saying, "Choose", the icon is saying "Choose".
Clever colouring and cleverer theology.
click on the icon to see it in more detail

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

His Excellency Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munozthe Apostolic Nuncio

FROM Diplomat, July/August 2005
If peacemakers are one of the eight beatitudes of Christ, then Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, London’s new Apostolic Nuncio, whose 35-year career has been dedicated to resolving conflict, can consider himself truly blessed.As a junior diplomat in Finland, Archbishop Sainz Munoz was dispatched as part of the Holy See delegation to the CSCE preparatory talks. Negotiations were tough and the Holy See fought hard to ensure that religious freedom was enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, a turning point in the Cold War.
Returning to the Vatican in 1975, he took over as the Holy See’s liaison with Poland, Hungary and later the USSR and Yugoslavia. A career highlight was accompanying Pope John Paul II to his homeland in June 1979. The Archbishop still remembers the Mass on Victory Square in Warsaw. The Holy Father began his Homily by saying that it was impossible to understand the ultimate meaning of man without Christ and that without Him it is impossible to understand the history of the Polish nation. The crowd erupted in cheers and for 20 minutes the Pope was unable to speak. “It is an image that I cannot forget,” he says. “Now, looking back, we can say that it was the beginning of the end of communism in Poland.”Two decades later he returned as Nuncio to the European Communities where he witnessed, to his great personal satisfaction, the reunification of Europe. European enlargement has not been without its challenges, however, not least negotiations over the European Constitutional Treaty where the EU’s secular states resisted a reference to God in the preamble, “against the desire of 50 million people,” adds the Nuncio, who hopes a reference might yet be included the future.Archbishop Sainz Munoz’s peace-brokering also extends to Latin America, where in 1978 he accompanied Cardinal SamorÈ in an emergency intervention by Pope John Paul II to avert war between Chile and Argentina over the Beadle Channel dispute. Five difficult years of mediation ultimately proved successful and the resulting peace treaty, elusive for 100 years, has held.His next posting, to Cuba, did not have such a “significant ending”, but the Nuncio recalls with fondness his long talks with Fidel Castro and working together with the Bishops to improve the position of the Church and the wellbeing of the Cuban people. He also recalls “the joys and the difficulties” of Kinshasa, where he was posted on the eve of the Rwandan genocide. When the conflict erupted it fell to the churches to come to the aid of the victims. “The Nunciature was a place of relief and even refuge for those who were persecuted,” he recalls, “even when the persecutors themselves became the persecuted.”The Nuncio feels the international community must bear some responsibility for the tragedy: “What would have happened if the international community had showed in 1994 more interest in the region as it had done, before and after, in other parts of the world, like in Europe or Asia?”Helping Africa remains a priority and the Holy See is keen to cooperate with Britain on initiatives such as the International Commission for Africa, the International Finance Facility and possibly debt relief. Methods will differ, he says, particularly in the fight against Aids.The Nuncio does not foresee a departure in the interpretation of the Gospel’s teachings during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI in many of the modern debates such as the use of condoms, abortion or homosexuality. “Thinking changes, society changes, fashion changes. But the central concept of human dignity from conception does not change,” he insists.
The Holy See will still consider different opinions, he adds, and will continue with its inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, including the Anglican Church. Pope Benedict, who hails from a country with religious divisions, could offer insights into the challenges facing the Anglican Church.In between the political football, the Nuncio, a Real Madrid fan, hopes to visit his family in his native Spain and, from time to time, watch the beautiful game. Living a stone’s throw from Wimbledon Common, Archbishop Sainz Munoz, a walking and tennis enthusiast, has perhaps found a little piece of heaven on earth.

Bishops: time for a change?

"The Roman Catholic renaissance is held back by the bishops", says Damian Thompson in the Telegraph. I am a afraid Damian seems to have a thing about our Bishops and normally when he appears either in the Telegraph or in his own paper the The Catholic Herald there is a diatribe against the Bishops or Eccleston Square which he portrays as their dark, overstaffed, liberal stronghold. I would love to discuss it with him.

He talks about a need for change, he has a point, after the Cardinal's retirement next year there is a need for a different direction. Cardinals Hume and Murphy-O'Connor seem to have developed the idea of special pleading for the Church in England and Wales, rather like Father Ted's "that will be an ecumenical question", they have often quoted Paul VI's "England is special ecumenical territory" and used this phrase to opt out of so many initiatives of the Universal Church, creating something of a bridge between Traditional Catholicism and Anglicanism. Hume used it famously to say the document on the "Unordained Faithful" did not apply to England and presumably used it to ignore much of the build-up to the Millennium, as well as the years of the Eucharist and the Rosary. I am told that in most dioceses world-wide the Compendium to the Catechism has been used as the basis for all Catechetical programmes, in England it seems to have been ignored, so far at least. I agree with Damian about the surprise that Benedict's election brought about in England and Wales. I think, too, this environment has encouraged our Bishops to see themselves as pushing the theological envelope, rather than as the Second Vatican Council would see them, "as gathering and strengthening the faithful".

The last Nuncio apparently told our Bishops that Episcopal Conference of England and Wales was the best in the world, just before his early retirement. One of the things that might indicate a change in the type of men who are appointed to the episcopate could well be the appointment last year of his successor Archbishop
Faustino Sainz Muñoz, and the rumoured past involvement of the then Cardinal Ratzinger in the appointment or rather the vetoing of particular candidates. The change that the forthcoming ordination of women in the Church of England has brought about in ecumenical relations has, one might presume, after Cardinal Kaspar's recent speech, changed the dynamics of this "special ecumenical territory", or maybe pointed to abolishing the idea completely.

We have entered a new age, I think what we need now are Bishops who are confident in their Catholic identity and able to develop a sense of hope and spirituality in the Church in England. Men who have the courage, vision and holiness to follow the example of their holy predecessors like Augustine, Thomas Becket, Richard Wych, John Fisher and the Marian Bishops; may these holy men pray for us.

Read the whole of Damian's article: Only one man can set that process in motion: Benedict XVI, the greatest theologian to hold the papal office for centuries. We must hope that the special quality of Benedict's thought - its emphasis on the role of beauty in the purification of worship - colours his choice of a successor to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor; for he would then have to look outside the magic circle.
One is hard put to think of a single bishop of England and Wales who shares Benedict's vision of the Church. Most of them were angered by his election, and his opinion of them is not high. "The English bishops," he told a visiting priest a few years ago, "are the problem." Well, Your Holiness, they are your problem now. England could become a showcase for a Catholic revival based on charismatic preaching and glorious liturgy. But, to achieve that, Pope Benedict may have to set aside his new benevolence and display some of his old ferocity.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Williams backpedalling from Liberal CofE?

I am confused about what he is saying, again.

Pope on the Environment

The pope, speaking at his summer villa outside Rome Aug. 27, expressed support for the Italian church's first day dedicated to the protection of creation, which was to be celebrated Sept. 1.

The pope said the created world was a great gift of God but is presently "exposed to serious risks by life choices and lifestyles that can degrade it.""In particular, environmental degradation makes poor people's existence intolerable," he said.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says the world's poor, who often live in polluted slums, are connected to the environmental crisis. In cases of poverty and hunger, it is "virtually impossible" to avoid environmental exploitation, said the 2004 social doctrine.

Pope Benedict said, "In dialogue with Christians of various churches, we need to commit ourselves to caring for the created world, without squandering its resources, and sharing them in a cooperative way."The Italian initiative aimed to promote the church's teaching on care for the environment. In churches throughout the country, the faithful were being asked to pray and to meditate on ecological damage.

In July, the pope sent a message to Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, praising his efforts in reminding Christians of their duty to protect the environment. In that message, the pope warned that the ecological balance of the Amazon region was under threat.

My Big Hate

As one get's older one seems to realises more and more how crotchety one gets and how many things really irritate, but the dreadful trouble is that they most probably don't irritate other people. I have always realised that I am a bit odd as a priest and maybe some of my parishioners might agree with me.
That being said one of my big hates, is priests who find it impossible to say Mass according to the Roman Rite. I mean priests who can't read the rubrics. "They come and supply and they are not house trained", complained a friend. Another friend of mine had a priest who was sent to relieve him for a much needed holiday, who made up his own Eucharistic Prayer, his parishioners were horrified, especially as English was not his first language . I had a Indian Bishop here, who expressed surprised that my people didn't respond, I had to tell him that they would if he used the words in the Missal but if he made up his own they were merely left confused. He told me that as a bishop he was able to improvise, I had to remind him we were all of us servants of the Church none of us, not even the Pope, as he has said himself, are its masters and certainly not a bishop who's role is to safeguard the liturgy.

There is a real ignorance of what is supposed to happen in the liturgy, simple little things for example, the Ceremonial of Bishops says quite clearly that the hands of a priest are supposed to be joined palm to palm, thumbs crossed. The "Dominus vobiscum" before the gospel is to be said without extending one's hands, the contrary is invariably done. Deacon's are supposed kneel at the consecration, they generally stand. So many priests seem incapable of raising their hands in prayer according to the rubrics, or even elevating the sacred host as the should. So many have given up genuflecting to the Blessed Sacrament on entering or leaving the sanctuary, not through infirmity, or even disbelief (I hope) but simply not understanding the Church's language of gesture.
They are simply not giving people what they are paid to do, that is to say Mass according to what the Catholic Church expects. Most priests are reasonably intelligent, but I suspect most have never bothered to read the bits in red that tell you what to do. At one time I thought I was just cranky but I am pleased that more and more people like successive Popes, and now Cardinal Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship are rather forcibly stressing that people have a right to receive the Catholic liturgy from priests and bishops according to what is set forth in the liturgical books of the Church.

The American website Curt Jester has an amusing piece on the reason for this blindness to the rubrics.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pope: St Monica and St Augustine for youth who go down “wrong roads” and “dead ends”

Looking back at the saints commemorated in these days, the pope referred to the difficulties faced by mothers and families to communicate the faith to their children. He also mentioned the duty to safeguard creation to help the poor of the earth.
Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – Only Christ, “fullness of Truth and Love”, “can quench the profound desires of the human heart”: this is what Benedict XVI had to say to all youth who “thirsting for happiness, seek it by travelling down wrong roads and get lost in dead ends”. He said this to comfort mothers who suffer “the spiritual labour of prayer and tears” so that their children may come to embrace the Christian faith. Making these remarks during the reflection before today’s Angelus, the pope cited as an example the saints whose feast the Church is celebrating today and tomorrow: St Monica and St Augustine: “Their witness can be of great comfort and help to so many families of our time too.”
The pope presented Monica, a Christian from Tagaste (modern-day Tunisia), who, after the death of her husband, “dedicated herself, with courage, to the care of her three sons, including Augustine who initially caused her to suffer because of his somewhat rebellious temperament. As Augustine himself would say, his mother delivered him twice; the second time called for a long spiritual labour, made of prayer and tears but finally crowned with the joy of seeing him entirely in the service of Christ.” The comparison with current reality is clear: “How many difficulties there are today too in family ties, and how many mothers are anguished because their sons take wrong roads! Monica, a wise woman and firm in her faith, invites them not to get discouraged but to persevere in their mission as spouses and mothers, keeping their faith in God firm and holding onto prayer with perseverance.” While Benedict XVI described these situations, the silence and tacit participation of many women in the public expressed their agreement.
But the life of St Augustine, who became bishop of Hippo after a chaotic youth, is also of comfort. “All his existence was an impassioned search for truth,” said the pope. “At the end, not without prolonged interior torment, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his own life and of the entire history of mankind. In his adolescence, drawn to earthly beauty, ‘he threw himself’ into it – as he himself admits (cfr Confess.10:27-38) – in an egotistical and possessive manner, with behaviour that caused his pious mother no mean sorrow. But by following a tiring path, also thanks to her prayers, Augustine increasingly opened up to the fullness of truth and love, to the point of his onversion, which took place in Milan under the guidance of the bishop, St Ambrose. He thus would remain as a model of the journey towards God, supreme Truth and greatest Good. ‘Late have I loved you,’ he wrote in his renowned book of Confessions, “O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
And behold, you were within me and I was outside… You were with me, and I was not with you… You called, and cried out to me and broke open my deafness; you shone forth upon me and you scattered my blindness’ (ibid).May St Augustine obtain the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ for all those youth who, thirsting for happiness, seek it by travelling down wrong roads and get lost in dead ends.”
“St Monica and St Augustine invite us to turn to Mary, seat of wisdom, with faith. To her, we entrust Christian parents who, like Monica, accompany by example and prayer their children’s journey. To the Virgin, Mother of God, we commend youth so that, like Augustine, they will lean ever more towards the fullness of Truth and Love that is Christ: He alone can quench the profound desires of the human heart.”
After the Marian prayer, the pope recalled the “Day for safeguarding creation” that the Italian church will mark on 1 September. Creation, this “great gift of God”, said the pontiff, “is exposed to serious risks by choices and lifestyles that may degrade it. Environmental degradation makes unsustainable especially the existence of the poor of the earth. In dialogue with Christians of different denominations, we should commit ourselves to taking care of creation, without depleting its resources and sharing them with solidarity.”

Follow-up on Lourdes Drinking

Have a look at Fr Tim Finigan's comments on caring for the young helpers.
He has also added more photographs of the inside of the Charter House including pictures of the martyred Carthusian victims of HenryVII and the relics of St Boniface.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pope's comments on Gregorian chants rekindle an age-old musical debate

I love liturgical chant, I love the gracious solemnity of it, the fact the music is so much part of the of the prayer. I am would like to have more of it in our liturgy, at the moment we have Missa di Angelus every Sunday except during Advent and Lent when we use a mixture of Mass XVI/XVII. We don't sing the Pater or the Credo partly because I am a little afraid of introducing more Latin because, mainly because older people complain they can't understand it and want to understand what they are praying. The counter argument to this is that very few Muslims understand Arabic. Jews understanding Hebrew is a comparatively new phenomena, until the coming of Zionism Hebrew was only a liturgical language, even Jesus spoke Aramaic not Hebrew. Having a special language for the liturgy or prayer seems to be part of religion. Who nowadays speaks Sanskrit or "Church" Slavonik, they are solely liturgical languages, and what about "toungues" that extra-ordinary muttering encountered among Charismatic groupings.

Anyhow, as a follow-up the piece on the Pope's comments on liturgical music read the whole of this article
Understanding God is hard work, the argument goes, and similarly, music in church should challenge us. A sermon that says only what people want to hear would lack moral authority. The same goes for music.
The chants sung at Regina Laudis are more than 1,000 years old. But Sister Elizabeth Evans says "old'' doesn't mean "irrelevant.''

Tour of a Carthusian cell

Father Tim Finnigan (Hermeneutic of Continuity) has being staying at St Hugh's Charter House, a privilege rarely given except to those who wish to join. Fr Tim teaches the novices theology.
Read his interesting comments on the Breviary as well.

Priest of Satan Beatified

John Allen's new column with much of interest including:
The Feast of the Assumption was Aug. 15, and to mark the occasion thousands of pilgrims gathered at the Sanctuary of the Holy Rosary of Pompei, one of the world's most famous Marian shrines. Among other things, the pilgrims celebrated the 100th anniversary of the gift of the shrine to the Holy See in 1906 by Blessed Bartolo Longo, its founder and a tireless advocate of the dogma of Mary's Assumption.
Beatifying Longo in 1980, John Paul II called him the "Man of Mary."
If every saint (and near-saint) has an interesting story, some are more interesting than others, and Longo's may be close to the most interesting of all. He holds the singular distinction that he was once a priest -- but not of the Catholic church, or even of the Christian God.
Improbably, Longo was a priest of Satan.
He grew up in a Catholic household, but fell in with a different crowd when he went to Naples for law school. Attracted to the 19th century "Spiritist" movement, he began attending séances, and eventually became involved in a Satanic cult. He was formally made a priest, and regularly conducted Black Masses and other Satanic rituals for the better part of a decade.
Eventually, however, Longo came under the influence of a Dominican who brought him back to Catholicism. Longo became a lay member of the Dominicans' Third Order, taking the name "Brother Rosary."
Longo organized a petition drive for world peace from 1896 to 1900, collecting more than four million signatures in dozens of countries. For his efforts, he was nominated for the 1902 Noble Peace Prize.
At the same time, Longo also led a petition drive supporting the dogma of Mary's Assumption. More than 120 bishops signed, and the petition was given to Pope Leo XIII. Some questioned the idea of a layperson meddling in theology, but Leo declared that the Holy Spirit can speak through any of the baptized.
Longo did not live to see the proclamation of the Assumption by Pius XII on Nov. 1, 1950. Forty years later, however, John Paul acknowledged him as the father of "the promotional movement of the definition of the dogma."
The moral of this story? If a former Satanist can become the architect of an infallible papal declaration, maybe there's hope for us all.

Benedict XVI to Meet His Former Students

RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 24, 2006 ( Benedict XVI will meet with his former students to discuss evolution and creation, reported Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. Speaking from Rimini on Wednesday, the archbishop of Vienna confirmed that the meeting will take place Sept. 1-3 in Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope is spending the summer. The ... [more]

Celtic player gets police caution

BBC on-line
Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc has been cautioned for a breach of the peace by police for blessing himself in an Old Firm match at Ibrox in February.
The Crown Office said the procurator fiscal had issued the caution as an alternative to prosecution.
A spokesman explained that Boruc's actions "included a combination of behaviour before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of an Old Firm match".
And that the Polish keeper's behaviour had "provoked alarm and crowd trouble".
The incident was said to have taken place at the start of the second half of the game on 12 February.
Police investigated the complaints and submitted a report to the procurator fiscal.
"It's a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence" Peter KearneyCatholic Church spokesman
The Crown Office said Boruc's behaviour had taken place before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of a match between Celtic and rivals Rangers.
As such it constituted a breach of the peace.
However, it is understood that as an alternative to prosecution, the Pole has been cautioned, leaving him with a criminal record.
The goalkeeper, who played during this year's World Cup in Germany, signed for Celtic from Legia Warsaw in July last year.
Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church, said the move to caution Boruc was "regrettable".
He said: "It's a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence.
"It's also very common in international football and was commonplace throughout the World Cup.
"It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simply religious gesture is considered an offence."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Him and his brother Goerg

A before the election picture, when he was just a simple Cardinal, having a day off with Mozart.

I have just found this the Ratzinger home! on a comment on

Be nosey, snoop!


Mark Shea on the "option for the poor"

Archbishop Chaput has put it most bluntly: If you neglect the poor you will go to Hell. It's all well and good to have various theories about how the poor got that way and about how we can prevent poverty and all but this story still sums up the difference between the gospel and the philosophies of men:
A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out.
A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there."
An objective person came along and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there."
A Christian Scientist came along and said, "You only think you're in the pit."
A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into a pit."
Confucius said, "If you would have listened to me you wouldn't be in that pit."
Buddha said, "You're pit is only a state of mind."
A realist said, "That's a pit."
A scientist calculated the pressure necessary, pounds and square inches, to get him out of the pit.
A geologist told him to appreciate and study the rock strata.
An Darwinian said, "You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle, in other words he is going to die in the pit so he can't produce any more pit falling offspring."
The country inspector said, "Did you have a permit to dig that pit?"
A professor gave him a lecture on the elementary principles of the pit.
A self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit."
An optimist said, "Things could get worse."
A pessimist said, "Things are going to get worse."
Jesus saw the man in the pit, took him by the hand and lifted him out.


Pere Jacques du Pont happened to drop by to say Mass at a side altar the other day, afterwards over a cup of coffee, he told me about another thriving French community, LA COMMUNAUTÉ SAINT-MARTIN, one of his nephews has just joined them.
Their main work is amongst young people, catechising, celebrating the liturgy decently and pilgrimage, which always seems to include the "camping", the mainstay of French youth work. Pere Jacques says that the main thing is to get young people in a situation where they are able to talk to a priest who takes them seriously, but above all takes God seriously. He assured me that amongst young people in many parts of France there is a real flowering of the faith amongst the young. "They are rejecting their parents agnosticism, they are rebelling against the relativism that has caused them pain and made them victims. In this they see the Church as their ally".
I am afraid the site is in French only.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pope makes surprise personal pilgrimage

Castel Gandolfo, Aug. 23 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) quietly slipped out of Castel Gandolfo on August 22, to make a private pilgrimage to a shrine in the nearby town of Nemi.
The Holy Father made the unannounced trip on Tuesday afternoon, leaving his summer residence with small police escort and making the 10-mile trip by car to Nemi, where the Santissimo Crocifisso (Most Holy Cross) shrine is located.
The Pope was accompanied by his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, and a few members of his staff, the I Media news agency reports. After praying before the Blessed Sacrament, they joined the Mercedarian priests who administer the shrine for Vespers.
Later the Pope visited the Mercedarian monastery. His stay in Nemi was about two hours.
From all indications, it appeared that the Pope had planned the visit so that his arrival would be unexpected. This was the second such pilgrimage of his summer stay at Castel Gandolfo; on August 8, he appeared unexpectedly at a convent outside Rome to pray privately for peace in the Middle East.
The town of Nemi, situated alongside a volcanic lake of the same name, is located in the hills south of Rome-- as is Castel Gandolfo.
The Santissimo Crocifisso shrine was built in 1637; the adjoining monastery housed a community of Franciscan monks before they were replaced by the Mercedarians. The shrine draws its name from the story of the crucifix that surmounts the building. That crucifix was crafted in 1673 by a Franciscan friar, Vincenzo da Bassiano. He reportedly was frustrated in his efforts to carve the face of Christ, and resigned himself to leave the task unfinished, going to sleep and planning another effort the next day. When he awoke, however, he found the image sculpted exactly as he had wanted it.
The Mercedarian order that now staffs the Nemi shrine was founded in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco, and dedicated at first to the ransom of Christians who had been captured and enslaved by Muslims. More recently the order has engaged in training missionaries and teaching children.

A safe way to harvest embryonic stem cells?

(from American Papist)
So goes the new claim:
Biologists have developed a technique for establishing colonies of human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a method that, if confirmed in other laboratories, would seem to remove the principal objection to stem cell research."There is no rational reason left to oppose this research," said Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of Advanced Cell Technology and leader of a team that reported the new method in an article published online by the journal Nature.But critics of human embryonic stem cell research raised other objections, citing the possible risk to the embryo from using the technique, and the fact that it depends on in-vitro fertilization, the generation of embryos outside the womb from a couple’s egg and sperm.
Critics, however, have a range of objections to the research. Catholic bishops, in particular, oppose both in-vitro fertilization and P.G.D. testing, and therefore still object to the research, even though the cells would be derived from an embryo that is brought to term.
Richard Doerflinger, deputy director for pro-life activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church opposed in-vitro fertilization because of the high death rate of embryos in fertility clinics and because separating procreation from the act of love made the embryo seem "more a product of manufacture than a gift."
Dr. Leon Kass, former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, said, “I do not think that this is the sought-for, morally unproblematic and practically useful approach we need.” He said the long-term risk of P.G.D. testing is unknown, and that the present stem-cell technique is inefficient, requiring blastomeres from many embryos to generate each new cell line. It would be better to derive human stem cell lines from the body’s mature cells, he said, a method that researchers are still working on.
Scientists welcomed the new development, but also expressed concerns. Dr. Irving Weissman, a stem cell expert at Stanford University, said the new method, if confined to P.G.D.-derived blastomeres, would not provide a highly desired type of cell, those derived from patients with a specific disease. [full NYT article.]More sources:
Embryos spared in stem cell creation - USA Today
US firm makes "ethical" embryo stem cells - Reuters
New method makes embryo-safe stem cells - AP
IVF? P.G.D.? Sorry, try again folks. Or better yet, try adult stem cells.

Vatican book weighs the world of sports

Aug. 23 ( - The Pontifical Council for the Laity has released a book of essays on the world of athletics, praising honest competition but warning against excesses of individualism and "body worship."
The collection of essays is entitled The Sporting World Today: A Field of Christian Commitment. In an introductory essay, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, remarks that the topic is worth analysis because while athletic competition is as old as the human race, in today's world sports have become "a consolidated mass phenomenon."
Citing the words of the Pope John Paul II (bio - news), an enthusiastic amateur athlete in his youth, Archbishop Rylko said that at its best, sport provides "a school of humanity," encouraging friendly competition, teamwork, and other valuable human virtues. He recalled the late Pope's statement that depending on the attitudes of participants and organizers, athletic competition can be noble or it can be profiteering; it can unite people or it can divide.
The Pontifical Council for Laity opened a new office for sports in August 2004. The office works with amateur athletic associations, youth groups, and sports professionals; its aims are to promote a healthy Christian attitude toward sports and to encourage athletes to bear witness to their Christian faith.

Miracles Do Happen
I am not sure what to make of this site, check it out and leave a comment, it is by CASE, the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation - which is a good thing.

Have you experienced or witnessed a miracle?

I was present when one took place in your Church, I think it can be described as a miracle. I was reminded by it reading about Fr Mark Elvins. He was preaching here one Sunday about sexual immorality, three gay guys got up to walk out. He paused, his face changed, he said, "Sit down because what I am saying will save your lives". Two sat down, the other left. The one who left was found two days later having been stabbed to death on the beach by his lover.
This was just posted in comments, I personally heard the story from Fr Mark himself. R Blake

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Reading Scripture in the Catholic Tradition

We Catholics are not Protestants. We look rather askance when we hear that vast numbers of American Protestants have a highly literalistic approach to some stories in the Bible, for example the first chapters of Genesis, the Creation. Most of us are simply perplexed when scientific theories are opposed by those quoting scriptural texts. The truth of the matter is that we do not take scripture alone as being the source of Revelation, it must be understood in the "light of tradition", Scripture and Tradition hand in hand for us form God's Revelation.
It is not that we take scripture lightly, on the contrary we understand scripture on a much deeper level than simple literal fundamentalism, I found this article on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as the "four senses" of scripture.
They are:

  1. Literal
  2. anagogical
  3. allegorical
  4. tropological
8. An example of the four senses: the treasure hidden in a field. In Matt 13:44 we read: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, a man having found which, he hid it and, for joy thereof, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." The literal sense is contained in the bare meaning of the words. It is clear what a kingdom is and what a treasure is. One can think of gold or silver buried in an open field. But there are two ways literally to read this simile, or comparison. One way is "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field ...." The other way is "The kingdom of heaven is like this. There is a treasure hidden in a field ...." The second way is probably more accurate, for reasons that will be given. The spiritual sense of this simile is taken up in the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church. The search for the spiritual meaning begins when we ask ourselves what the "treasure" stands for in the comparison. As compiled by Thomas Aquinas in his Catena aurea and in his own Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew at Matt 13:44, we find as follows. According to St. Gregory the Great, the treasure is "heavenly desire" (Isa 33:6), hidden in the field of "the discipline of zeal for Heaven" (Prov 24:27); according to St. John Chrysostom, the treasure is the teaching of the Gospel (2 Cor 4:7), hidden from the eyes of the unclean people of this world (Matt 11:15); according to St. Jerome, the treasure is the divine Word of God (Col 2:3), hidden in the field of his Body (Col 2:9), or Sacred Scripture, hidden in the field of the Church (Wisd 7:14); according to St. Augustine the treasure is the two Testaments. We should note that St. Thomas Aquinas, when he brings out a spiritual meaning of a word or passage in Sacred Scripture, also when he is quoting from the Fathers of the Church, as he has done here, usually associates it with a literal expression of the same word elsewhere in the Scriptures. Such cross references are very useful, but they require a vast knowledge of the Scriptures in order to be found consistently. The use of a concordance can be very helpful in this regard.
9. The anagogical sense of Matt 13:44. The neo-Patristic approach tries to make explicit the framework of the four senses which is usually only implicit in the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church. The anagogical sense regards the higher allegory of the Most Blessed Trinity and the "four last things," namely, death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Where Gregory the Great sees the treasure hidden in a field as representing "heavenly desire" in general, the neo-Patristic exegete will locate this insight objectively as the anagogy of Heaven itself, the place where God in Three Persons dwells and where the blessed abide. Subjectively, on the anagogical level, the treasure may be seen as eternal happiness in Heaven. A person finds this treasure now through the supernatural virtue of faith, he rejoices through supernatural hope, and he goes and buys that field through the exercise of the supernatural virtue of charity. 10. The allegorical sense of Matt 13:44. An allegory is "a sustained metaphor." Allegory is also "a technique of creating or interpreting works of literature, art, and music so that they will convey more than one level of meaning simultaneously" (Encyclopedia Americana, "Allegory"). We speak of the allegorical sense of the Scriptures inasmuch as objects of faith are presented by the metaphorical use of words that literally represent natural things, and this usage is repeated over and over again in a recognizable pattern. Allegory in the miraculous text of the Bible does not mean fancy or unreal depiction, except where it deliberately uses a genre of fiction. The literal sense of the Bible carries a higher level of meaning centered around the allegory of Christ and his Church. Thus, following St. Jerome, we may be able to see that the treasure in Matt 13:44 is the divine Word of God, present hypostatically in the human nature of Christ and hidden within the "field" of his Body and Soul. To come to know who Jesus really is means to discover the He is God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, made man for our salvation. Secondly, we learn who Jesus is through hearing the Gospel as it is preached or through reading the Gospels as they have been written down. We learn who Jesus really is by listening to his words and by reviewing his deeds, recounted in the "field" of the Gospels. Thirdly, the treasure is the Person of Jesus, hidden prophetically in the figurative expressions of the Old Testament. Fourthly, the treasure is Jesus, hidden within the Church, which is his Mystical Body. People come to Jesus through the Church. And so we have the allegory of the Divine Word, the allegory of the written word, the allegory of the two Testaments, and the allegory of the Church.
11. The tropological sense of Matt 13:44. The tropological sense is the objective pattern which represents the impact of the objective truth upon the believing subject, and it is structured chiefly in terms of the virtues of the soul of the believer. We have seen above, in relation to the anagogical sense, that the three theological virtues are the "field" in which the desire for heaven lies. To "sell all that one has" in order to buy that field means to repent of one's sins, to submit our minds to the truth of the Gospel, to focus our minds and our hearts upon supernatural realities, to give up all of our attachments to the world, the flesh, and the Devil, to be wholly converted to love for God and for our neighbor, and other things of this kind. Tropologically, the kingdom of Heaven is the reign of God's grace in the heart of the believer. Cornelius a Lapide, whose commentaries provide abundant help for neo-Patristic research, sees here as tropological Gregory the Great's teaching that the treasure in point is the desire of Heaven, which the finder must hide from the praise of men. "In this present life we are on a road by which we are proceeding to our homeland, but evil spirits are like robbers besetting our path. Whoever, therefore, openly carries his treasure on the way is asking to be robbed" (Gregory, Homily 11 on the Gospels).
read the whole article

Pope:Book of the Apocalypse, a comfort for Christians persecuted in Asia and rest of the world

from Asia News
Explaining the symbolism in this book of the evangelist John, Benedict XVI underlined the Christian paradox of the victory of Christ, the Woman and the Church over suffering and persecution. Pilgrims from Taiwan and Japan were present at the audience.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Suffering is not “the last word” in the history of the world and the Church, but a “point of passage towards happiness and, even it [suffering] is already mysteriously soaked” with “joy” and “hope”: Benedict XVI spoke these words to more than 7,000 pilgrims gathered in Paul VI Hall for the weekly audience, explaining the highlights of the book of the Apocalypse of St John, often moving away from his prepared speech to add impromptu comments.
The pope said that contrary to usual interpretation, the Apocalypse was not about an “overhanging catastrophe” or “enigmas to be resolved”. Rather it told about the persecutions suffered by Christians throughout history, aiming to instill the certainty of a “victory of the Lamb, slaughtered and yet standing upright”, becoming a comfort for Christians, especially those of Asia. The reference to Asia and persecution against Christians is above all literary: the Apocalypse, said the pontiff, “should be understood in the background of the dramatic experiences of the seven Churches of Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea) that at the end of the first century had to face heavy difficulties in their witness to Christ. John turned to them, showing animated pastoral sensitivity towards the persecuted Christians, who he exhorted to remain strong in the faith and not to identify with the pagan world.” But speaking then about the one of the symbols of the Apocalypse (the scroll no one could open that drove the apostle to tears, Apoc.5:4), he adds: “Probably this cry expressed the bewilderment of the Asian churches about the silence of God in the face of persecutions they were subject to then. It is a bewilderment that could well reflect our dismay in the face of serious difficulties, misunderstandings and hostilities that the Church still suffers today in several parts of the world. They are sufferings the Church certainly does not deserve, just as Jesus himself did not merit his torment.”
Speaking off the cuff, the pope continued: The “meaning of the history of mankind”, “the destiny of history” is in the hands of Jesus Christ, who the Apocalypse reveals as the “slaughtered Lamb, defenceless, wounded, dead, but upright, alive, participating in the divine power of the Father”. “Jesus, although he was killed by an act of violence, instead of collapsing to the ground, paradoxically remains firmly on his feet, because the resurrection has definitely won over death”.

The meaning of victory over persecution was affirmed by Benedict XVI when he explained the symbol of the “Woman who delivers a male Son, and the complementary one of the Dragon who has by now fallen from the heavens. Although active in the persecution of the Woman and her other children, he has now been overcome at the core and his ultimate defeat will be unmistakably manifested.” Here too, the pope talked off the cuff for a while, explaining that the Woman is Mary, but also the church “that gives birth with great suffering in every age, defenceless, weak. While she is persecuted by the Dragon, she is protected by the consolations of God. It is this woman who triumphs in the end, not the dragon.” The pope continued spontaneously: “The Woman who is persecuted appears at the end like a Bride, the new Jerusalem, where there are no more tears and everything is light, because her light is the Lamb.”
“For this reason,” continued Benedict XVI, “the Apocalypse of John, although it is pervaded by continual references to suffering and tribulations – the obscure face of reality – is just as much permeated by frequent hymns of praise that sort of represent the luminous face of history... We are faced here with a typical Christian paradox, according to which suffering is never perceived as the last word, but is rather seen as a point of passage towards happiness, and even it [suffering] is already mysteriously soaked with joy that springs from hope.”
The pope ended his reflection by explaining the last words with which “the Seer of Patmos” concludes his book, the invocation, “Come Lord Jesus”, “pulsing with anxious expectation”. Here too, the pope added a reflection on impulse, saying that this waiting had three dimensions: that of the “definitive victory of the Lord who comes and transforms the world”; the “Eucharistic, of now, in which He anticipates his final coming”; the eschatological, in which the Church says: You have already come, it is a joy for us, but come fully.” And nearly as if to express the impatience of this wait, Benedict XVI ended with a prayer: “Come Lord Jesus, come and transform the world, and may your Peace triumph. Amen.”

At the end of the audience, the pope greeted all the pilgrims in different languages. Speaking in English, he greeted a group of priests from Taiwan and members of St Mary’s Hospital of Luodong (Taiwan) as well as youth from Nanzan University of Nagoya (Japan).

The Reverend Father Mark Elvins, KCGCO, OFM, Cap.,

Fr Mark came to stay overnight, so that he could visit Ann Roberts who was named Catholic Woman of the Year, this year, she is seriously ill in hospital, I found this article on him on something which seemed to be a rather Tatleresque website. Fr Mark had been a curate here.

Father Mark Elvins was appointed a Chaplain to the British and Irish Delegation in 1982 following his investiture as Ecclesiastical Knight of Grace of the Constantinian Order of Saint George. In 2003 Father Mark was awarded the Gold Benemerenti Medal of the Constantinian Order.
He was born in 1939 as the son of a former Rector of Dover Castle, the Reverend Elvins. Father Mark studied at Dover College, St Stephen’s House in Oxford, Beda College and the Gregorian University in Rome and Heythrop College, University of London from where he graduated as a Master of Arts.
Father Mark’s career began when he entered Sandhurst and became a Captain with the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department. In 1961 he became Assistant Manager at St James’s Gallery in Jermyn Street until his appointment as Assistant Editor of Debrett' Peerage. Between 1965 and 1973 Father Mark read theology at Oxford and Rome.
Following his ordination in 1973 at Arundel Cathedral, Father Mark became Assistant Curate and Chantry Priest to The Duke of Norfolk.His next appointment was at St Mary Magdalen’s in Brighton (1980-1990). From 1985-1986 he was Chaplain to the Master of the Worshipful Company of Scrivenors. Father Mark then became Parish Priest at Henfield (1990-1993).
Father Mark’s philanthropic commitment and compassion is expressed in his numerous Christian engagements. Father Mark is the founder of Simon House for homeless in Oxford (1967), St Thomas Fund for the Homeless in Brighton (1980), Becket Homes for the homeless in Canterbury (1997). Father Mark is also a Director of Chester Aid to the Homeless, a Council member of the Crime Prevention Initiative and the St Thomas Fund.
Father Mark is a keen author whose recent titles ‘The Church’s Response to the Homeless’, ‘Cardinals and Heraldry’, ‘Catholic Trivia’ and ‘Towards a People’s Liturgy’.
In 1999, Father Mark was professed as a friar of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. He is also Chaplain of Magistral Grace of the Order of Malta.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gregorian Chant, stable release via Wikipedia

Thanks to The New Liturgical Movement
Note that the Wikipedia entry on Gregorian Chant appears Thursday (day after tomorrow) on the front page of this remarkable little site with 1.3 million plus entries. What this means, really, is that Gregorian Chant on Thursday will receive more attention than any article online in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, all news services, etc. combined. For non-believers, here is a primer on the reach of Wikipedia. To me this entry alone is enough to dispell the popular impression that Wikipedia is nothing but a pile of junk. I ventured into the Wikipedia biz a few weeks ago, and found out quickly that I was way over my head. I made a couple of tiny changes in an entry and found them reversed in a matter of minutes, and for very good reasons. I then went into a discussion on my proposed additions and found myself faced with a crowd of severe experts who knew more about the subject in question and far more about the technology. Wikipedia may look like a free-for-all, but the reality is that if the iron law of oligarchy works anywhere it is here. Older people face incredible challenges living in this age of technological leaps and bounds. I know brilliant people for whom email alone is baffling. Wikipedia is the sort of thing that pushes people over the edge. It seems like it could never ever work. And yet it does. It takes some serious reflection on the higher theory of social organization to understand why. What can we say about the oldest and most stable form of living music being propagated in this venue that represents the bleeding edge of technological advance? Well, words fail. If you have changes to make to this entry, you need to do it now, but prepare to climb a steep learning curve and face some very impressive editors.

Drunk Britons shatter peace of Lourdes

I love the place, but I have not been to Lourdes for years. I hate the drunkenness, I hate the fornication, I hate the abuse of the liturgy, I hate the lack of real spiritual care for the young helpers. Last year all my antipathy was confirmed with a picture of one of our English bishops performing a drag routine, dressed as a nurse, even so I hadn't realised things had got to this state...

From the Daily Telegraph By Peter Allen in Lourdes

For millions of pilgrims, a visit to Lourdes to take its miraculous healing waters is an intensely spiritual experience. Since Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary almost 150 years ago, the shrine has become a place of quiet contemplation and religious devotion.

Hail Mary or Bloody Mary? Lourdes is home to tacky gift shops and numerous bars and clubs

But now the town's peace is being shattered by thousands of British tourists whose behaviour has become so bad that officials have brought in riot police. The decision to deploy officers from the notorious Compagnies publicaines de Sécurité (CRS) came after local gendarmes admitted that they were unable to cope with the nightly excesses of British visitors who, after going to the famous shrine, take to the town's bars and clubs.

"We are carrying out late- night patrols because of the threat to public order caused by increasing numbers of night-time drinkers," a spokesman for the CRS said.

"The local gendarmes cannot cope with all the trouble, and the situation has been getting out of hand. The British are particularly fond of their drink and have been some of the worst offenders. There have been numerous complaints about their behaviour, and it cannot be tolerated."

In Lourdes's busy streets, there is plenty of evidence of alcohol-fuelled exuberance in the town's numerous bars and clubs.

At Bar Angelus, a few hundred yards from the shrine, bare-chested men, and women wearing skimpy tops and crucifixes, swayed to the blaring music including Madonna's Like A Virgin and Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

"We come here to party after being reverential all day," said Susan Clare, a 19-year-old student from south London.

"Some of the lads go a bit over-the-top, but none of us set out to cause trouble. It's just our way of letting off stream. It is worrying to see these elite police patrolling in their vans and on foot, but I suppose they have a job to do."

"We're just typical Brits enjoying ourselves," said Phil Cross, a 22-year-old from Manchester, who was accompanying a group of handicapped pilgrims.

"None of us mean any harm, but the situation can get a bit tense when the police take exception to what's going on. You do see a few of the older pilgrims who are still up late looking a bit worried by what's going on, but you're only young once."

Later, as the bars continued to serve cocktails at £2.50 a time, revellers were seen running across the roofs of parked cars, indulging in mock fights and vomiting into gutters. It is these types of crime, along with minor acts of vandalism and "lewd behaviour" between amorous young Roman Catholics, that dominate the nightly reports of CRS officers.

"Offenders from Britain are easy to spot because they usually all wear the same coloured T-shirts and hats," said one CRS officer. "Last week a couple sneaked into the grounds of the Rose Basilica and became very amorous in a very holy place. It's not the kind of thing other pilgrims want to see."

Since February 1858, when the first apparition was witnessed by Bernadette Soubirous, more than 200 million people have visited the south-western French town, which has a population of 15,000.

There have been 67 recognised miracles, the last involving a 41-year-old Italian woman who was suffering from severe heart disease.

However, concerns have been expressed that the commercialisation is at odds with Lourdes's importance as a religious shrine. In addition to its drinking spots, the town is home to dozens of shops selling cheap gifts and a profusion of fast-food restaurants.

Monday, August 21, 2006

What is the Theology of the Body?

by Alvin Kimel
I have just started reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. The title hooked me immediately. Two years ago I tried to read John Paul II’s catechetical lectures on his theology of the body, and I didn’t make it very far. What a relief, therefore, to find someone willing to translate his thought for beginners like myself. I thought that I would share the highlight’s of West’s book, one chapter each day (hopefully).
The theology of the body, West says, can be summarized in the following thesis statement of John Paul:
The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it. (p. 5)
This is a bold statement. All of created reality can be understood as a sacrament of the divine; but the human body simultaneously reveals to us both the mystery of human existence and the mystery of God. Inscribed in our bodies is our vocation to love as God loves. We are made male and female and called to fruitful communion. Through this union of man and woman, the Pope declares, we rediscover “the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life” (p. 2).
God is Holy Trinity. In the words of the Catholic Catechism: “God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love.” The Father eternally communicates himself to the Son, and the Son eternally receives the love of the Father and gives himself to the Father in reciprocal love. And the love they share is the Holy Spirit. From the heart of this community of love flows the decision to create persons to share in the divine ecstasy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Humanity, male and female, reflects and images the divine mystery:
So, once again, when we speak of the invisible ‘mystery hidden in God from time immemorial’ we are speaking of the fact that (1) God is a communion of love and (2) we are destined to share in that exchange. This two-part “mystery” is what the human body signifies right from the moment of our creation. How so? Precisely through the beauty and mystery of sexual difference and our call to become “one flesh” (see Gn 2:24).
God imprinted in our sexuality the call to participate in a “created version” of his eternal “exchange of love.” In other words, God created us male and female so that we could image his love by becoming a sincere gift to each other. This sincere giving establishes a “communion of persons” not only between the sexes but also—in the normal course of events—with a “third” who proceeds from them both. In this way, sexual love becomes an icon or earthly image in some sense of the inner life of the Trinity. (pp. 8-9)
The love of man and woman also reveals the the union of God with humanity in Jesus Christ. The key biblical text for John Paul is Ephesians 5:31-32:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church.
The holy communion of husband and wife “foreshadows the Holy Communion of Christ and the Church” (p. 9). John Paul even speaks of the Holy Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride” (p. 9). West shares the story of his father-in-law who attended Mass the day after his wedding, having consummated his marriage the night before. He returned to his pew in tears. When his wife asked him if anything was wrong, he replied, “For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of Christ’s words, ‘This is my body given for you’” (p. 10).
I have known such a moment in intimate union with my beloved.
John Paul is thus willing to speak of the nuptial union as the least inadequate human analogy to the mystery of the Holy Trinity: “In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Communion. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery” (p. 12).
Is the Song of Songs the very heart of the Bible?
Given the iconic significance of the nuptial union, is it surprising that the Enemy should attack humanity precisely at this point? The last thing the Devil wants is for us to discern the mystery of God in our bodies.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pope: Be like St Bernard, devoted to silence for intense apostolic works

Benedict XVI recalled the saint of the day, Bernard of Clairvaux, a “clear and incisive communicator”. He mentioned the saint’s advice to a pope: cut back on “damned occupations” and leave space for prayer.
Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – “The urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church” should be harmonized with “solitude” and “quiet”: this call to prayer and contemplation has become a constant in the reflections of Benedict XVI. And he underlined it again when recalling the saint whose feast is marked today: Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, who lived between the XI and XII centuries. “The dedication to silence and contemplation,” said the pope, “did not prevent him from undertaking intense apostolic works.”
The effectiveness of St Bernard, said the pontiff, lay in his ability to “put forward truths of the faith in a manner so clear and incisive that it fascinated the listener and prompted the soul to meditation and prayer.” But this was the fruit of a personal experience of “divine charity, revealed fully in the crucified and risen Christ”. The pope continued: “The echo of a rich inner experience, that he managed to communicate to others with amazing persuasive ability, is found in each of his writings. For him, the greatest strength of spiritual life is love.”
Benedict XVI also recalled a text that the saint dedicated to Pope Eugene III, his pupil and spiritual son, the De Consideratione, based on the fundamental theme of “inner meditation”. “One must guard oneself, observed the saint, from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever the condition and office covered, because many occupations often lead to ‘hardness of heart’, ‘they are nothing other than suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence, dispersion of grace’ (II,3).” It is likely that Benedict XVI was making this emphasis with himself in mind, being so taken up by countless commitments of his work. He said: “This caution applies to all kinds of occupations, even those inherent to the government of the Church.” And he cited Bernard’s “provocative” words to Eugene III: “This is where your damned occupations can drag you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... leaving nothing of you to yourself.”
To reaffirm the primacy of prayer and contemplation, the pope suggested praying to St Bernard himself and to the Virgin Mary. “We entrust,” added Benedict XVI, “this desire to the intercession of Our Lady, who he loved from childhood with a tender and filial devotion to the extent of deserving the title of “Marian Doctor”. We invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world. St Bernard, in a celebrated discourse of his, compared Mary to a star that navigators gaze upon to avoid losing their way:
‘Wading through the events of this world, rather than walking on land, you have the impression of being tossed about among billows and storms; do not turn your eyes away from the splendour of this star if you do not want to be swallowed by the waves... Look at the star, invoke Mary… Following Her, you will not lose your way… If She protects you, you have no fear, if She guides you, you will not get tired and if She is propitious towards you, you will reach your goal’ (Hom. super Missus est, II, 17)”.

Farnborough Abbey, Hampshire

click header for tour.

This is an amazing place, it was built for the body of Napoleon III who died in exile in England. It is French Gothic. I first went their on a foul November day and was amazed to see gargoyles gushing water. The Church is glorious, yet this is also a working monastery, it is now also the home of the Catholic Library.

It has had a number of different groups of monks living there, first of all Canons of Premontre, then a golden age of Solesme Congregation, now, I think they are Subiaco Congregation. Again in the last few years it looked as if they were going to die out, they had three or four monks. The Prior undertook an extra-ordinary policy of renewal, first of all getting rid of the pastoral responsibilities of the parish ansd concentrating on the monastic life. It attracted men like liturgist, Alcuin Reid, who has since left. Also, there was a great project to restore the monastic buildings, primarily the Church and Imperial Crypt back to what the 19th century architect had intended, now Farnborough seems to be thriving. One of the reasons seems to be that they have taken on traditional approach to liturgy and monastic life.

Miraculous Icon stolen: roads blocked

Greek police stage masive hunt for stolen 'miracle' item Police today set up roadblocks and launched helicopter searches for thieves who scaled a cliff and stole a 700-year-old religious icon from a monastery in southern Greece.The Icon of The Virgin Mary, which is credited with miracles, was reported missing yesterday at the Orthodox Christian monastery of Elona, near the town of Leonidio, about 300km (185 miles) south-west of Athens.“This is the worst thing that could happen to us, our church and our religion,” said Metropolitan Bishop Alexandros of Mantineia and Kynouria.Describing the icon, which measures 40x50cm (16 by 20in), as “priceless,” Bishop Alexandros said he believed the thieves had used climbing equipment to reach the monastery, built into a cliff-face.He said they may have been hiding in the grounds of the building before it closed for the evening on Thursday.Father Nikolaos Sarantis, a local priest, said he believed the theft was well planned.

“It is very difficult to climb down from there. But they clung to the rock like Satans,” he said.Three nuns are currently staying at the monastery and reported the theft to police.Police today extended the search and roadblocks to 100km (60 miles) from the monastery. They also found ropes used by the thieves to guide their way across the roof of a monastery building.The deputy head of the Greek Police, a former senior anti-terrorism officer, is heading the investigation.Thousands of worshippers visit the icon each year, most around August 15, an Orthodox Christian religious holiday in honour of the Virgin Mary.The stolen artwork was one of several famous religious icons in Greece, where offerings or votive gifts are left by worshippers who pray for recovery from illness or successful conception, or make other prayers.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Archbishop Von Galen preaches against Hitler's Euthanasia Programme

One of my great heroes is Blessed Clemens von Galen, Archbishop of Munster, he stood up against the Nazis, with dreadful consequences for his clergy.

Here is an extract from his famous sermon, for the full version click here

For the past several months it has been reported that, on instructions from Berlin, patients who have been suffering for a long time from apparently incurable diseases have been forcibly removed from homes and clinics. Their relatives are later informed that the patient has died, that the body has been cremated and that the ashes may be claimed. There is little doubt that these numerous cases of unexpected death in the case of the insane are not natural, but often deliberately caused, and result from the belief that it is lawful to take away life which is unworthy of being lived.
This ghastly doctrine tries to justify the murder of blameless men and would seek to give legal sanction to the forcible killing of invalids, cripples, the incurable and the incapacitated. I have discovered that the practice here in Westphalia is to compile lists of such patients who are to be removed elsewhere as ‘unproductive citizens,’ and after a period of time put to death. This very week, the first group of these patients has been sent from the clinic of Marienthal, near Münster.
No, these are not the reasons why these unfortunate patients are to be put to death. It is simply because that according to some doctor, or because of the decision of some committee, they have no longer a right to live because they are ‘unproductive citizens’. The opinion is that since they can no longer make money, they are obsolete machines, comparable with some old cow that can no longer give milk or some horse that has gone lame. What is the lot of unproductive machines and cattle? They are destroyed. I have no intention of stretching this comparison further. The case here is not one of machines or cattle which exist to serve men and furnish them with plenty. They may be legitimately done away with when they can no longer fulfil their function. Here we are dealing with human beings, with our neighbours, brothers and sisters, the poor and invalids
. . .

Have you or I the right to exist only because we are ‘productive’? If the principle is established that unproductive human beings may be killed, then God help all those invalids who, in order to produce wealth, have given their all and sacrificed their strength of body. If all unproductive people may thus be violently eliminated, then woe betide our brave soldiers who return home, wounded, maimed or sick.
Once admit the right to kill unproductive persons . . . then none of us can be sure of his life. We shall be at the mercy of any committee that can put a man on the list of unproductives. There will be no police protection, no court to avenge the murder and inflict punishment upon the murderer. Who can have confidence in any doctor? He has but to certify his patients as unproductive and he receives the command to kill. If this dreadful doctrine is permitted and practised it is impossible to conjure up the degradation to which it will lead. Suspicion and distrust will be sown within the family itself.A curse on men and on the German people if we break the holy commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ which was given us by God on Mount Sinai with thunder and lightning, and which God our Maker imprinted on the human conscience from the beginning of time! Woe to us German people if we not only licence this heinous offence but allow it to be committed with impunity!

Read an article about his heroic life here

Life Unworthy of Living

By Hilary White LONDON, August 15, 2006 ( – This week, a popular BBC radio announcer told the public that she had entered into a “suicide pact” with friends should she be incapacitated by illness. Jenni Murray, the presenter of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, a feminist and euthanasia advocate, said that she does not want to be “trapped” into caring for her mother who is ill with Parkinson’s disease. Murray, a member of the Order of the British Empire and a patron of the Family Planning Association, is airing her views tonight on a BBC television program called “Don’t Get Me Started.” Publicity material for the show says that Murray “plans to end her own life when she becomes a burden to those around her.” She discusses methods, including smothering with a pillow or injecting with drugs, with two friends, The network said: "Jenni is angry that, having fought so hard to become liberated and independent, women are now being trapped into caring for dependent parents." Murray complains that the law against assisted suicide is supported by a “religious minority” who hold to an outdated moral view that human life is inherently valuable and that children have a legitimate obligation to care for elderly parents. The program highlights the growth, especially in Britain, of the idea of an “obligation to die.” Most leading thinkers in the bioethics field endorse euthanasia and assisted suicide and often argue that elderly and ill patients have the obligation to end their lives to relieve pressure on families and the health care system. In 2004, Baroness Mary Warnock, Britain’s leader in bioethics, said unequivocally that the ill and elderly had an obligation to die as soon as possible so as not to burden relatives and the medical system. Baroness Warnock, called Britain's “Philosopher Queen”, said in an interview, “In other contexts sacrificing oneself for one's family would be considered good. I don't see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance.” She said, “I am not ashamed to say some lives are more worth living than others.” UK's "Philosopher Queen," Warnock Says Elderly and Ill have Obligation to Suicide.

Pope's Preacher: My blood is drink indeed

Posted by Picasa My Blood Is Drink Indeed "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." The Gospel passage continues the reading of chapter 6 of John. The new element is that to the discourse on bread Jesus adds that of wine; to the image of food he adds that of drink, the gift of his flesh and of his blood. Here, Eucharistic symbolism reaches its culmination and totality. Last week we said that to understand the Eucharist, it is important to begin with the signs chosen by Jesus. Bread is the sign of food, of communion among those who eat it together; through it he comes to the altar and all human work is sanctified. Let us ask the same question for the blood. What does the word blood mean to us and what does it evoke? In the first place, it evokes all the suffering that exists in the world. If, therefore, in the sign of bread man's work comes to the altar, in the sign of blood all human pain also comes there. It comes to be sanctified and to receive meaning and the hope of rescue thanks to the blood of the immaculate Lamb, to which it is united as drops of water mixed with wine in the chalice. But, why, precisely, did Jesus choose wine to signify his blood? Just because of the affinity of color? What does wine represent for men? It represents joy, celebration; it does not represent usefulness so much (as bread does) but delight. It is not only made to drink, but also to toast. Jesus multiplied the loaves because of the people's need, but in Cana he multiplied the wine for the delight of the guests. Scripture says that "wine gladdens man's heart and bread strengthens it" (Psalm 104:15). If Jesus had chosen bread and water for the Eucharist, he would only have indicated the sanctification of suffering ("bread and water" are in fact synonymous with fasting, austerity and penance). By choosing bread and wine he also wished to indicate the sanctification of joy. How wonderful it would be if we also learned to live the joys of life in a Eucharistic manner, that is, in thanksgiving to God. God's presence and look do not cloud our honest joys; on the contrary, they enlarge them. But, in addition to joy, wine also evokes a grave problem. In the second reading we hear this warning of the Apostle: "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit." He suggests that inebriation with wine be combated with "the sober inebriation of the Spirit," one inebriation replaced with another. At present there are many initiatives of recovery among people with problems of alcoholism. They try to use all the means suggested by science and psychology. They cannot but be encouraged and supported. But those who believe should not neglect the spiritual means, which are prayer, the sacraments and the word of God. In the work, "The Russian Pilgrim," a true story is told. A soldier addicted to alcohol and threatened with being discharged went to a holy monk to ask him what he should do to overcome his vice. The monk ordered him to read a chapter of the Gospel every night before going to bed. The soldier acquired a Gospel and began to read it diligently. But soon after he returned desolate to the monk to tell him: "Father, I am too ignorant and I don't understand anything of what I read! Give me something else to do." The monk replied: "Just continue reading. You don't understand, but the devils understand and tremble." The soldier did so and was freed from his vice. Why not give this a try?

“If we aspire to communion with Jesus, we must fix our eyes upon the most holy life he lived in the flesh”

Posted by Picasa Jesus of Mount Sinai
In his goodness and love for humankind, Jesus, the most divine Word, one, simple, and hidden, assumed our nature, appearing though unchanged in his own nature as a being both composite and visible.
Graciously he received us into unifying communion with himself, joining our lowliness to his sublime divinity, upon the sole condition that we in our turn should adhere to him as members of his body by living a pure and godly life like his, and not giving reign to ruinous, death-dealing passions, which would make us incapable of union with those completely healthy and divine members.
If we aspire to communion with Jesus, we must fix our eyes upon the most holy life he lived in the flesh and follow the example of his divine innocence so as to become pure and godlike. Then, in a manner befitting us, he will give us a resemblance to himself.
The bishop manifests these truths in the sacred rites he performs when he publicly unveils the hidden gifts, divides them into many parts, and by the perfect union of the sacrament he distributes with those who receive it, admits the recipients to communion with it
For by thus presenting Jesus Christ to our eyes he shows us the very life of our spirit and understanding in a way perceptible to our senses, as it were pictorially.
He shows us how Christ came forth from his divine concealment to assume for love of humanity our human form, becoming completely human without loss of his own identity; how while remaining unchanged he descended from his natural unity to the level of our divisibility; and how through the beneficent deeds inspired by his love for us, he calls the human race to communion with himself and to a share in his blessings
He asks only that we unite ourselves to his most divine life by imitating it to the best of our ability, so as to enter into a real communion with God and his divine mysteries.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...