Monday, April 30, 2007

BBC Unfriendly

In conversation with some priests today, someone asked if anyone saw the Mass from San Fransisco. Of course no one did, we were all busy. The truth was it was not Mass, and it was not on the tele but the radio, and according to one of my parishioners who heard it, it was more sad than gay.

One of our number suggested the BBC ought to look after other Catholic minorities. So why not an Old Rite Mass?
"Low Mass? On Radio?" said one priest who celebrates it often, "It will be; Boing! tatata... mutter, mutter mutter... MUTTER, MUTTER, MUTTER, muttermuttermuttter... ting, ting, ting, muttermutter ting, ting, ting mutter muttermuttermutttermuttermutter muttter muttermuttermuttter.... etc.

I am sure this will offend, not my intention but somethings just aren't BBC radio friendly! Which is good.
Commiserations if you waited for news on this feast of S. Pio, well there is still May 5th!

Internet confessional

Confession: Roman Catholic Blog has a new option, do it on-line.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pope ordains twenty-two

From Asian News
Twenty two young men from Italy, the Philippines, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Slovakia were ordained today by Benedict XVI in a suggestive ceremony in St Peters Basilica.
In his homily Benedict XVI underlined first and foremost the profound unity between the priest and the Good Shepherd, “the Son of man who wanted to share the human condition in order to gift them new life and guide them to salvation”, defined as “good” (kalos), a sign of definitive beauty and goodness “since messianic times”. One’s relationship with Christ “is a deep and personal relationship; knowledge of the heart of he who loves and is loved; of he who is faithful and in turn has faith; knowledge of love because of which the Shepherd invites his to follow him”. This relationship is also “a source of constant consolation and indestructible hope”. Because “Christ never abandons us” and “no obstacle can ever impede his universal plan of salvation”.
“The Sacrament of Holy Orders which you are about to receive – continued the Pontiff as he turned to the candidates – will make you participants in Christ’s mission; you will be called to sow the seeds of his Word, the seeds which contain the Kingdom of God, to dispense divine mercy and feed the faithful at the banquet of his Body and his Blood. In order to worthy ministers you must continually feed yourselves of the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life. Stay close to the altar, your daily school of holiness, to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, renew your own discovery of the richness of the Divine Master’s love, which today has called you to an even more intimate friendship with Him. If you listen to him carefully, if you follow him faithfully, you will learn to translate your lives and your pastoral mission into his love and passion for the salvation of souls. Each one of you my dear Ordinates, with God’s help will become a good shepherd, ready to give, if necessary, even your lives for Him”.
The pope underscored is the joy of priesthood, even in the midst of difficulties. Citing a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, in today’s reading, Benedict XVI said: “ “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (13,52). In spite of the misunderstandings and contrasts, Christ’s apostle does not loose that joy, no; he is the witness of that joy which is born of being with the Lord, from love for Him and his brothers”.
Commenting then on the theme of the world day of prayer for vocations (“Vocations at the service of Church communion”), the pope underlined that a growth in vocations depends strongly on prayer, formation and the attention of the family and entire Christian community. Turning to the families and friends of the newly ordained the pope advised: “Let us surround, these our Lord’s brothers, with our spiritual solidarity. Let us pray that they remain faithful to the mission which the Lord entrusts to them today, and that they are ready to renew each and every day their ‘yes’ to God, there ‘Here I am’ without any reserves. Let us ask the Lord of the mass, on this day dedicated to vocations, that he continues to evoke many holy presbyteries, wholly dedicated to the service to the Christian people”.
The last thoughts of the homily went to the Ordinands: “Jesus says to you today – said the pope – ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends’. Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with ‘Eucharistic love’! Mary, Heavenly Mother of Priests accompanies you; She who beneath the Cross joined herself to Her Sons sacrifice, and who after His resurrection in the Cenacle welcomed His gift of the Holy Spirit together with the apostles and the other disciples, helps all of us and each one of you, my dear friends in the Priesthood, to allow ourselves be transformed interiorly through the grace of God. Only in this way is it possible to become faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can the mission to know, love and lead the flock which Christ won with the price of his blood, be carried out with joy. Amen!”.

Thinking about Vocation to the priesthood?

I am not too sure about the manga comic stuff below but there are some good vocations sites

see the Westminster one, there are some very good articles by Fr Stephen Wang and of course the Southwark diocese has a blog run by Fr Stephen Langridge, the Arundel and Brighton one is in the sidebar, it is boring in comparison BUT next Friday evening, at 7.30pm in our parish centre the diocesan vocations group meets, it talks about discernment and the whole scope of vocation including marriage and celibacy, it is open to anyone between 18 and 35. Last time there were about 25 young people, some from as far a way as Slovakia!

There is Mass in the Church at 7.00pm by the way.

Thinking about Vocation to the priesthood?

I am not too sure about the manga comic stuff below but there are some good vocations sites

see the Westminster one, there are some very good articles by Fr Stephen Wang and of course the Southwark diocese has a blog run by Fr Stephen Langridge, the Arundel and Brighton one is in the sidebar, it is boring in comparison BUT next Friday evening, at 7.30pm in our parish centre the diocesan vocations group meets, it talks about discernment and the whole scope of vocation including marriage and celibacy, it is open to anyone between 18 and 35. Last time there were about 25 young people, some from as far a way as Slovakia!

There is Mass in the Church at 7.00pm by the way.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Called Today

First there were the beer mats that asked young men enjoying a pint if they were being called to a spiritual life of a different kind. Then last year came posters with a World Cup theme which invited single Catholic men to reflect on a possible vocation with the question, “what’s your goal?”
This week the Vocations Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has unveiled its latest vocations drive: Japanese Manga-style cartoons representing characters in religious life. Manga cartoons have been chosen partly because they have an appeal for both teenagers and adults alike.
Such initiatives have not only helped to increase vocations for the fourth year in a row but have nearly doubled them from 24 to 44 in the same period.
Fr Paul Embery, the director of the vocations office, said the aim of the cartoon posters was to suggest to young people “that this could be them in years to come”.
He said: “Many of those who are priests and religious today will tell you that they first considered these vocations when they were in their teens or, in some cases, earlier.”
The poster has been distributed to some 5,000 churches, schools and chaplaincies up and down the country ahead of Vocations Sunday this weekend.
Sunday will also see the launch of, a website dedicated to exploring the vocations depicted in the poster. Visitors to the site can take a closer look at the lives of each of the five Manga characters – who are not fictitious, but actually represent real people, with real stories to tell. Testimonies from a priest, two nuns, a monk and a lay brother can be read online.
“Cartoons, particularly Manga-style ones, are a good way of reaching young people, even up to the age of 25,” says Fr Embery. “We want more young people to consider the call to priesthood and religious life, whilst at the same time acknowledging that many more people are making commitments later in life. We have a ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or’ policy, as we recognise that older candidates bring different life experiences with them.”
The statistics showing the rise in vocations were due to be scrutinised by the English and Welsh bishops at their annual conference this week.
Fr Embery welcomed the rise, but acknowledged that it was too early to say for certain if it would continue.
“After several decades of decline in the number of those training for the priesthood, we have seen four consecutive years of growth, which is good news; however, we have no guarantee that this growth will continue,” he said.
“After Pope John Paul II died we saw an increase of interest not only in the priesthood but Catholic life in general. The challenge for the Church is to recognise this and build on it.”
The major cities have seen the largest rise in applicants – an increase in parallel with those joining the Church.
There are now 150 men training to be priests for the dioceses of England and Wales.
Westminster diocese is also marking Vocations Sunday with the launch of a 20-minute documentary called It Is Time, which follows the progress of two candidates to the priesthood as they study at Allen Hall, the diocesan seminary in Chelsea, and, in the case of one priest, as he works as a deacon in Our Lady of Fatima Church, Shepherd’s Bush.
DVDs of the film have been sent to all 216 parishes and 39 secondary schools in the diocese – which last year saw a leap in the numbers of trainee priests from 22 to 28 – in an attempt to stoke interest in the religious life.
The film ends with the ordination of Fr John McKenna, 41, who is now the curate at St Paul’s Church, Wood Green.
The advice he would offer anyone contemplating a vocation was to “stay close to Christ”. He said: “He’s a good shepherd and I believe he leads us both individually and as a Church community. Also, get some good advice from priests in the ministry at the moment and from friends you can trust or who know you well.”

You can read the rest of this article and news coverage in this week’s Catholic Herald

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich died today

The Great Rostropovich Playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Carlo Maria Giulini and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Say a prayer for him

I this story from a friend who was also a friend of Slava's which i hope she doesn't mind if I share:

I had the honour of being Slava's neighbour and friend in Little Venice, west London, for the last 18 years. He was a delight, often phoning to ask for a special favour - and often one that would not be easy to deliver, such as a dinner party for 10 in his flat that evening. The request would always end: "If you can't help me, I suicide immediate!"

BBC to broadcast gay mass from San Francisco

From the Daily Mail


The BBC is to relay a 'gay Mass' from San Francisco this Sunday, the first time such a service has been broadcast.
The 50-minute Mass at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the predominantly gay Castro district of the city will feature prayers and readings tailored for the gay community.
The church has been described as an "inspiration" to gay and lesbian Christians around the world because of its ministry to homosexuals.
Its parish priest, Father Stephen Meriweather, blesses participants in the San Francisco's annual gay pride march.
But it has also infuriated many Catholics in the U.S. who have complained about such activities as transvestite bingo nights during which sex toys and pornographic DVDs were handed out as prizes.
Last night a media watchdog said Sunday's radio broadcast was "bound to cause offence" to mainstream Christians.
John Beyer of Mediawatch UK, an organisation which campaigns for standards in the media, said he thought it was a mistake to broadcast the service.
"Religious broadcasting, apart from Songs of Praise, tends to focus on the out-of-the-ordinary and having this particular service I think will cause offence to people who feel that such practices are wrong and are taught as such in holy scripture," Mr Beyer said.
"The BBC really ought to be focusing on mainstream services which are more in keeping with the public service requirement that it has."
However, Father Donal Godfrey, the U.S. Jesuit priest celebrating the Mass, said he was delighted the BBC was "exploring how gay people fit into the perspective of the Christian narrative".
"Being gay is not special," he said. "It's simply another gift from God who created us as rainbow people."
The recording will go out at 8.10am to two million listeners on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship programme.
The preacher will be James Alison - a homosexual British Catholic theologian and author of 'Is it ethical to be Catholic? - Queer perspectives'.
Weeks after the BBC finished recording the service last October, it emerged that a transvestite group calling themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence regularly staged lewd and irreverent bingo nights on the church premises.
The San Francisco archdiocese-stopped the events when it was discovered that prizes of a sexual nature were being handed out by the group, who dress as nuns.
In the past members of the group have paraded naked through the city advertising a 'hunky Jesus' contest. Their motto is: 'Go and sin some more.'
A spokesman for BBC Radio 4 said: "The strength of Sunday Worship is its diversity. It aims to reflect a variety of Christian spiritualities, and for that reason, when editorially appropriate - on average about once a quarter - comes from outside the UK.
"Taking the theme "Finding a place in the Christian narrative" this programme comes from the largest and oldest predominantly gay area in the world, from a Catholic community which has an experienced and developed understanding of the issues of being gay and Christian.
"As far as we know this is the first time the subject of being gay and Christian has been explored by the programme."
The Roman Catholic Church holds that sex belongs in the context of heterosexual marriage and that gay sex is "objectively disordered".
However, it also teaches that homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful and that gays and lesbians must be treated with respect and be free from unjust discrimination.

When is Experimentation Legitimate?

This is a picture of Bishop Mathew Clark of Rochester, NY, USA 'concelebrating Mass' with another priest.
I had a conversation recently with a priest who assured me that there were legitimate variations in the manner in which Mass may be celebrated, tongue in cheek I said “yes the crossing of the thumbs when the hands are joined could be legitimately relaxed for good reason”, and although the chalice veil is not necessary, it is a “commendable” practice to use one, of course that is quite different from the use of the communion plate which “should” rather than “must” be retained, meaning presumably that there might be some occasions on which it can be dispensed with.
I am not keen on celebrating Mass outside of my own parish, and I am not too keen on other priests coming into celebrate Mass here. I once had to tell an Asian Archbishop that I would prefer him to celebrate Mass privately if he could not follow the rubrics and use the words in the Missal at a public celebration, and a South America priest who refused to wear a chasuble and eventually wore a Roman one but put it on the wrong way round!
One hears of extra-ordinary things happening; pottery chalices, an absence of vestments, priests making up their own Eucharistic Prayers even, hand holding during the “Our Father” or mass celebrated on coffee tables, people being denied their right to receive on the tongue or being forbidden to make any reverence before receiving Holy Communion, all a denial of people's rights.
Well for the first time in years I have been tempted to experiment, to use the new texts, at least in part, even to the point of saying “Mystery of Faith” as an exclamation of wonder as in the Latin rather than saying, “Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith”. Or of saying,
“Taught by the Saviour’s command and
formed by the word of God,
we have the courage to say…”
rather than one of the several options in the present Missal, or even
“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb.”
rather than,
“This is the Lamb of God …. Happy are those who are called to his Supper”.
I must admit I do add “Behold”, and substitute “Blessed”, for "Happy"; a remnant of my more liberal days. Recently I have been encouraging my servers to genuflect a little more than the rubrics actually demand.

We had Bishop Henderson, an auxilliary in Southwark, here a few years ago and had the Mozart Coronation Mass, he said afterwards, “I would have had the Benedictus after the consecration and carried on saying Eucharistic Prayer while it was being sung and done the same with the Sanctus". This isn't of course actually allowed, as far as I can see.

My question here is what is legitimate experimentation? I would be grateful to hear from other priests.

An Installation: Emanuel Kaja

A few weeks ago a you Polish artist asked me if he could put an installation in the Church. This is something I have always been wary of, especially at Brighton Festival time. One year, as a deanery, we agreed to co-operate, and it was pretty frightening, on Church had a whole lot of legs going down the aisle another a little drama before Mass (being Brighton a few people in the congregation thought it was a couple of drunks and threw them out). Another Church had something which involved a font or a fountain which some people though of as blasphemous. Because our Church is a bit dark we have normally escaped the worst excesses. The trouble is of course most artists do not really have much faith, they see things in terms of symbolism or even irony, or have some vague notion of being "spiritual" which generally means being incarnate.
Anyhow I was looking for an excuse to gently say, "No," to this artist.
Well this morning Emanuel Kaja came to see me and I agreed. he is going to put a an eight foot high perspex, wood, stone and wire installation in the back of the Church.
The stones symbolise separate human beings. Each of them is marked with a different name to represent Christ sacrifice for all. The also represent human sin that brought Christ to the Cross. Each stone is wrapped with wire which represents toil and sorrow that make us fall repeatedly. Having died Christ turns our hearts of stone into something alive, into his body. The mock-up is from Emmanuel's studio, his intention is that it should be in the Church through out May.
I am quite looking forward to seeing it and to hearing people's reaction. I am concerned that we Christians really don't have a way of dialoguing with artists and of communicating the Catholic faith visually. The things that move my heart are often non-verbal, human interaction, signs, symbols, music, the interaction of words, the problem is so many modern artistic statements are abstractions, denials of incarnation, statements of the distance of God, even distortions of the nature of God. I am fascinated by the idea of orthodox thought and the visual expression of it.
I am sure that many of you will want to comment on this installation and the quality of modern art but I would be very interested to know about good orthodox Catholic artists, especially if they have a website.
There will be more photographs when it is up.

New translations are used in America

We rarely get readers in South Africa, but I have had reports that these new translations are in use there and in the States. Does anyone have any knowledge of this? What is happening in Nebraska or Chicago?
As one commentator says,
"...the new translation is already being used in the U.S., and that with the tacit or verbal permission of not a few American bishops! At least one bishop invited his priests to explain the new texts to the people and begin using them at daily Mass."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ratzinger Junior on liturgical reform at Vatican II

From Commonweal.......
After each of the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, Joseph Ratzinger published a pamphlet with reflections on the events and achievements of that session. These were then gathered together and translated into English as Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966).
Given the discussion in several threads of the possible action of Pope Benedict XVI with regard to the Tridentine Rite, some may find it interesting to know how the young conciliar peritus saw the question of liturgy at the time. (Page numbers are given from that English edition.)
In his review of the first session, he had a number of comments:

"The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct6 move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church wi8th her Lord, actualized in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfills its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated ... the main theme of the entire Council–its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the 'hierarchological’ Congar) narrowness' of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins" (14).
Ratzinger pointed to five important elements in the liturgical schema. (1) "the return to Christian origins and the pruning of certain accretions that often enough concealed the original liturgical nucleus; examples: priority of Sunday over saints’ days; of mystery over devotion, of "simple structure over the rank growth of forms"; "defrosting’ of ritual rigidity; restoration of the liturgy of the Word; "the dialogical nature of the whole liturgical celebration and its essence as the common service of the People of God; "reduction in the status of private Masses in favor of emphasis on greater communal participation."
(2) a stronger emphasis on the Word as an element of equal value with the sacrament:" new arrangement of biblical readings.
(3) "a more active participation of the laity, the inclusion of the whole table-fellowship of God in the holy action".
(4) "the decentralization of liturgical legislation," which represents "a fundamental innovation." Conferences of bishops now will have responsibility for liturgical laws in their own regions and this, "not by delegation from the Holy See, but by virtue of their own independent authority." This is to introduce "a new element in the Church’s structure, ... a kind of quasi-synodal agency between individual bishops and the pope. This decision may even have "more significance fore the theology of the episcopacy and for the long desired strengthening of episcopal power than anything in the ‘Constitution on the Church.’"
(5) the language of the liturgy. Behind this vigorous debate lay the need for a "new confrontation between the Christian mind and the modern mind. For it can hardly be denied that the sterility to which Catholic theology and philosophy had in many ways been doomed since the end of the Enlightenment was due not least to a language in which the living choices of the human mind no longer found a place. Theology often bypassed new ideas, was not enriched by them and remained unable to transform them" (14-18).
In a talk delivered in October 1964, Ratzinger remarked "that the first real task of the Council was to overcome the indolent, euphoric feeling that all was well with the Church, and to bring into the open the problems smoldering within" (83). An example was the question of the liturgy, which represented a "profound crisis in the life of the Church." Its roots lay back in the late Middle Ages, when "awareness of the real essence of Christian worship increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out the whole." Trent’s reaction to Reformation challenges was inadequate, even if it eliminated a number of abuses. It did not sufficiently deal with Reformation difficulties with the notions of adoration and sacrifice. It did cut back the medieval overgrowth and took measures to prevent it in the future. But the main measure was to centralize liturgical authority in the Congregation of Rites.

Liturgy Office Clamp Down on Blogosphere

Fr Tim Finigan received this letter from Washington demanding he remove the copy of the new translations of the Mass he published on "The Hermeneutic of Continuity".

I would have thought that anyone in the Church in the USA would realise the great dangers of doing things behind closed doors and excluding the vast majority of clergy and the laity, especially after the sex abuse scandals and cover-ups that have torn the Church there apart. Mr Finn says that these translations should only be introduced with "sufficient catechetical material". Frankly, the texts themselves seem to be sufficient to teach people the superiority of the new translations of the theolgically barren, inelegant translations we use now.

The present translation of the Latin says, "he took the cup" the new translation says, "he took this precious chaliceinto his holy and venerable hands" which is exactly what the Latin says, every other linguistic group gets an accurate translation.

Anyhow Fr Tim has taken his "mirroring", as he calls it, down but someone else seems to have been blogging around those who might be interested and has put the text up, judge for yourself at , I think I was visitor number "7".

You could email Mr Finn who supplies his email address on his letter to Fr Tim.

Subject: ICEL2006 text of the Order of Mass
From: "Peter Finn"
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007
16:27:05 -0400
CC: "Bruce Harbert" , "Bishop Arthur Roche"

Dear Father Finigan:
It has come to our attention that the proposed translation (Gray Book) of the Order of Mass circulated in January 2006 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been included on your blogspot (the-hermeneutic-of This translation has been produced without the Commission's permission and in violation of the ICEL copyright. We ask therefore that the text be removed immediately from the site.

This proposed translation has been sent to the Conferences for their canonical vote and prepared after consideration of comments from Conferences of Bishops, the Vox clara Committee, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on the ICEL February 2005 draft translation (Green Book).

The Bishops of the Commission are concerned that these texts not be released to the general public until the requisite votes have been taken and after the preparation of any additional revisions that may follow upon their vote and the recognitio issued by the Congregation to the Conferences. The Bishops of the Commission are especially concerned that these texts be introduced with sufficient catechetical materials intended to aid the reception of the new translation.

In light of these and other concerns, we ask for your kind cooperation in this matter and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Finn
Associate Executive Director
International Commission on English in the Liturgy
1522 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-1202
Phone: 202-347-0800
FAX: 202-347-1839

Pope: God’s Word, and thereby the Church, knows no age

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The “orated reading” of the Bible, the catechesis and coherence in “moral” behaviour which mark the life and works of the third century Origen, “one of the greatest fathers of the Church”, have lost none of their relevance in today’s world. They show that “in the allegorical and spiritual reading of the word of God and in the coherent commitment to life, the Church blossoms and renews itself”, because God’s Word “knows no age”. In his continued catechesis on the importance of the teachings of the fathers of the Church, today Benedict XVI spoke of Origen to the 25 thousand pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s square for his general audience, defining the Saint as an “essential figure in the development of Christian thought”, in which he brought about an “irreversible turn”. So much so, that pope Ratzinger said he had relied heavily upon him for his “Jesus of Nazareth” and prayed that he remain a model for theologians today. A pupil of Clement of Alexandria – of whom the pope spoke last week – Origen projects all that he had learned from him towards the future. He was not only “a brilliant theologian, but also an essential witness of Church doctrine”, he said that “conduct must correspond to the word of law” and he “led many others to follow him”, yearning to die the martyrs death that his father met. Benedict XVI notes that while he preached at Caesarea, he said “the best way to honour my father and glorify Christ was by living a good and upright life”. His “nostalgia for the baptism of blood” was in part fulfilled when in 350; he was arrested and tortured, dying soon after.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Zimbabwe: Anglican bishops voice support for Mugabe

Dan Bergin
Africa's Anglican bishops issued a message on Friday expressing their support for the Zimbabwean government ­ days after the Catholic Bishops' Easter message condemning government policies and appealing for change.
According to agency reports, the Anglican pastoral letter, released ahead of this week's independence celebrations acknowledges Zimbabwe's economic crisis has "rendered the ordinary Zimbabwean unable to make ends meet."
But the 14 Anglican bishops of the central African Episcopal Synod blame the worsening plight of poor Zimbabweans largely on Western economic sanctions. Foreign investment and loans to the country have dried up after six years of political and economic turmoil following the often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms that began in 2000.
Western governments say they have only imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean assets abroad and travel restrictions which affect rulers and policymakers.
Zimbabwe's nine Catholic bishops marked Easter with an unprecedented call on Mugabe to retire. It warned that the current situation is reaching meltdown and the country could face a mass violent revolt.
The Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter accused the ruling elite of racism and corruption and fomenting lawlessness and violence to cling to power and wealth, factors they said led to the economic meltdown. The letter decried state-orchestrated intimidation, beatings and torture
The Anglican Church has been traditionally muted in its criticism of the government, with its leaders generally toeing the ruling party line.
Harare's bishop Nolbert Kunonga, was one of the signatories of the Anglican letter. Frequently praised in the state media for his "progressive sentiment." Kunonga has denounced some black clergy as "Uncle Toms" and puppets of whites and Britain and the United States for their criticism of Mugabe.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Message of Benedict XVI for the 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations,


(for next Sunday)
"The first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, ... accepted His pressing invitation: 'Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!'

"In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with Him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish His plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, He called Abraham to form a 'great nation;' afterwards, He called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt. ... In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with Him and to share His mission. ... The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.

"The Vatican Council II Constitution 'Lumen gentium' describes the Church as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,' in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form 'one body and one spirit' in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of His passion."

"This intense communion favors the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord.

"The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant 'education' for listening to the voice of God. ... Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the 'Lord of the harvest.' The invitation is in the plural. ... The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that He may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion."

"It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion."

"Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus: 'My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.' ... May she help you to say with your lives: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God'."
In England and Wales there has been a rise in vocations over the last four years accoprding to Zenit.

I just walked into a lamp post

a different pair of legs
I have just walked into a lamp post, and I am afraid I was looking at a woman's legs, and she was wearing the tiniest of skirts. I was not ogling just shocked, she had tattoos over the entirety of both legs, her arms were bare they too were tattooed.

There are lots of people in Brighton more or less covered in them and men and women whose faces are covered with piercings, I was in a fish and chip shop a few months ago, a woman was drink a cup of tea, and the tea was coming out through the holes in her face.

I don't know what it is about Brighton people and tattoos and piercings, there are tons of seedy tattoo and piercing studios in the city, and I am told that a really good one can be really expensive and some fine arts graduates have got into this "medium". My problem is what happens when these living canvasses age, the skin coarsens and wrinkles, there are going to be rows of old ladies in nursing homes with sagging butterflies or wreathes of barbed wire wobbling over flabby muscles and old men with holes in their ears which once held large fashionable earrings, yes and more tea dribbling down wrinkled faces.

What caused my accident was that the shock of seeing outside the CookShop, a pair of legs with rather pornographic imagery, in a rather fascinating Pop Art Genre, these were an expensive artistic statement, definitely not prison art done with a darning needle and a Biro.

I was distracted by the horror of it!

I mean what does someone think of themselves that they "modify", that is the term, themselves. I wanted to go up to the woman and say, "Look, God loves! You are made in his image and likeness! Listen!" Instead I just walked into the lamp post, no blood though.

Constantine the Great forbade the facial disfigurement of felons when he was converted. The Church has always regarded tattooing, scarification, piercing in the same light as mutilation. Modern examinations of conscience always seem to have a reference to "excessive" tattooing or piercing. There seems to be something profoundly unchristian about, but saying that one of my parishioners has a tattoo of the Holy Father on her shoulder....
Now I must put a note in the newsletter about modesty of dress when coming to Mass.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Latin unites

An interesting article about a school concert in Sri Lanka, from Indian Catholic, it is about school concert in Holy Week in which students sang Latin Hymns, older parishioners apparently remember the time when Catholic Sinhalese, Tamils and Burghers, people of European descent were able to worship together, using a common language, now of course with the civil war even Catholics have split into ethnic groups and the vernacular has strengthened the divisions within civil society and introduced them into the Church.
I just wonder when diocesan "Justice and Peace" or "Social Action" groups might take up the cause of Latin as a source of dialogue and solidarity. I don't really say this with my tongue in my cheek. Latin actually does overcome the increasing idea of identifying the Church with a particular nationalism.

St George: the Great Martyr

There seem to be two distinct Georgian traditions, George and the dragon and George, the Great Martyr.
In the first George overcomes the dragon who seeks to destroy the virgin, who eventually leads the dragon cative, and in the second George overcomes a multitude of the most gruesome of tortures and eventually death.
The two stories can be reconciled if one sees the dragon as being death, the destoyer of the innocent, George like all the martyrs wrestles with it and eventually overcomes it, and hands power over it to the innocent virgin, the Church.
Death's power is destroyed by the Holy Martyr.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

State Funeral for Party Bishop

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Michele Fu Tieshan, Patriotic Archbishop of Beijing, will receive a funeral fit for a “head of state”. There will be no Vatican representative present, neither the religious ceremony nor the state burial.
Church sources in Hong Kong told AsiaNews that members of the Beijing Patriotic Association expressed their desire that there should be a Vatican representative at the burial, but it is “highly improbable that someone will attend. There was no Vatican representative at last year’s funeral of msgr. Li Duan [archbishop of Xian] who was in deep communion with the Pope and Vatican”. Despite this, the sources add, all of the faithful in China and abroad “should pray for his soul, which is now at the mercy of God’s justice”.
see below for background!
Pray for the soul of this poor man, that he maybe numbered amongst the faithful departed!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Church Supplier

I am not begging for gifts to our sacristy, but so many priests are a little wary of both the cost, style and quality of vestments in the UK.

I found in the a link to this German site on Roving Medievalist. There are some rather gruesome things from the 1980s, but then there is this and similar things, and all from 771 euros, now what is the German for "ombrellino".

Babies survive abortion

from This is London

One in 30 babies aborted for medical reasons is born alive, a study has found.
They lived for an average of 80 minutes - although in some cases foetuses survived for over six hours.
Most of the babies were born between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, but some had been in the womb for as little as 17 weeks.
The figures, based on a study of West Midlands hospitals, has reignited the abortion debate, with pro-life campaigners demanding the time limit for terminations be cut.
Researchers looked at the outcome of 3,189 abortions performed on seriously handicapped foetuses at 20 hospitals between 1995 and 2004.
It showed that 102 - or around one in 30 - aborted for reasons such as Down's Syndrome and heart defects, were born alive.
Abortions are allowed to be carried out if the pregnancy is shown to have an adverse effect on the mental health and wellbeing of the mother up until the 24th week of pregnancy.
Beyond this point, the procedure is only sanctioned if the baby has a severe disability or if the mother's life is at risk.
The latest study, carried out by experts from the West Midlands Perinatal Institute and published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed that three per cent of aborted disabled babies were born alive.
Most of the abortions studied were medical abortions. These involve a women being given a series of pills, taken in two doses two days apart.
The first dose, a single tablet of mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy hormones that normally ensure the womb's lining holds on to the fertilised egg. The second dose, of four tablets containing hormone-like prostaglandins, triggers contractions and a miscarriage.
The death of the baby is a result of the trauma of the early birth, rather than the tablets itself, meaning, in rare occasions, some babies may survive the process.
From 22 weeks, the tablets should be preceded by a lethal injection into the baby's heart to ensure the baby is dead before the procedure goes any further.
If these babies are born alive, it suggests they weren't given the heart-stopping injection - perhaps because the doctor thought it would have been too traumatic for the mother. The figures follow several studies which show that babies born at 23 and 24 weeks are capable of surviving.
While there is no suggestion that any of the babies documented in the West Midlands study lived for more than a few hours, doctors in Norwich are currently treating a toddler born at 24 weeks after three botched terminations.
He was born three years ago and is still alive.
Campaigners said it was likely the Midlands figures were just the tip of the iceberg as the region only accounts for around a tenth of the babies born in the country each year.
In addition, the study only looked at babies whose lives were ended because of disability.
However, most abortions are carried out on 'healthy' babies for social reasons. Julia Millington of the pro-life group Alive and Kicking said: "This can't just be happening in the West Midlands.
"It begs the question of how many healthy babies must be surviving? It would suggest the true figure must be much higher.
"With live births after abortion occurring in 18 out of the 20 maternity units in the West Midlands alone, it is difficult to comprehend the numbers of babies around the country left fighting for their lives."
Babies born alive after abortion are entitled to medical care. However, anti-abortion campaigners claim that some are so unwanted, they are simply left to die.
The Department of Health said that key medical associations agreed that the time limit for abortion did not need to be changed.
• Thirty years ago, Gianna Jessen's mother had an abortion when seven-and-a-half months pregnant.
The abortion failed and, 18 hours later, Gianna (pictured) was born alive.
She suffered cerebral palsy as a result of the botched abortion, yet has defied doctors' predictions that she would never walk.
In fact she has run a marathon, is an accomplished singer and writer and travels the world to campaign against abortion.
Her mother was 17 when she decided to have the abortion. Weighing 2lbs when she was born, she spent several months in hospital fighting for her life, before being placed in a foster home.
Her cerebral palsy, which was caused by her brain being starved of oxygen during the abortion, was diagnosed at 17 months old. Doctors said she would never be able to crawl or even sit-up unaided, much less stand or walk.
Now, after several operations and years of physiotherapy she has proved them wrong. Gianna does not know why her natural mother chose to abort her.
She said: "If abortion is about women's rights, then what were my rights?
"No decision is solely yours to make. All decisions affect another human being - whether it is for good or for ill.
"If people are going to talk about abortion, then it's important for them to know that these babies can be born alive and survive."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Patriotic Archbishop of Beijing dead

Today, at 7:50 p.m., Beijing time (1:50 p.m. Rome time), Monsignor Michael Fu Tieshan, Patriotic Archbishop of China's capital, died in Beijing Hospital, the medical centre for China's political élite, where he had been admitted a few days ago in serious condition. Before his death, he received the visit of President Hu Jintao.
Archbishop Fu had been sick with lung cancer for years. According to some members of the faithful, it is thanks to his political stature that he was able to live so long, as the most costly and modern treatments were profusely bestowed upon him. Some say the government had established a group of young soldiers of the People's Liberation Army to act as "reservoir" of blood for the transfusions that he needed.
A few days ago he received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and the priests and nuns of Beijing began lining up to pay their respects. According to some priests in the capital, at the moment of the anointing, unable to speak, Fu Tieshan shed a few tears.
Fu Tieshan has been described at the "most tragic" figure of the Chinese Church: disliked and shunned by the faithful of his diocese for having continuously taken sides against the Pope, the Vatican and the people of China (he had even praised the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 on state television); rewarded, praised, promoted up the government's and the Patriotic Association's bureaucratic ladder, becoming Vice-President of the People's National Assembly and President of the Patriotic Association. The faithful of his diocese had always criticized him for his weakness which brough him to total subjection to the Party and to the workings of a woman, Ms Chen Maoju, his would-be secretary who, taking advantage of the bishop's illness, squandered and pocketed for herself much of the Beijing Church's estate.

Pius XII: the bad guy

Posted by: Diogenes on Catholic World News
Once again, the legacy of Pope Pius XII has become a subject of public controversy, this time because of the display at Israel's Yad Vashem Museum that makes him out to be culpably non-committal toward Nazis and Nazism. The evidence that Eugenio Pacelli, later Pius XII, was consistently anti-Nazi is overwhelming (see the bibliography at the RFC site, for starters), but of course lots of folks have excellent personal or political reasons to want a discredited papacy -- a morally discredited papacy, capisce? -- and there are few swifter routes to moral bankruptcy than collaboration with Nazism.
Those who make a critical study of the past understand that conflicting historical evidence is like contrary testimony in a courtroom, which must be sifted not only according to its intrinsic probability, but on the basis of the intentions, especially the covert intentions, of the source. One needs to ask in each case what motives conflicting witnesses may have had to lie, or exaggerate, or make tactical omissions -- and in what direction. In brief, who stands to gain and who stands to lose by each outcome? Thus, while there's no denying that the Church is interested in the good reputation of her popes, it's equally obvious that anti-Catholics score a propaganda boon when the hierarchy is blackened. But here's the rub: not all anti-Catholics hate the Church for the same reason, and what is an abomination to the Sadducees is a boast for the Pharisees, and vice-versa. And that gives us some leverage for deciding who's telling the truth.
The cartoon above appeared in the July 22, 1937 edition of Das Schwarze Korps, the newspaper of the Nazi SS, on the occasion of the visit of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli, to France. It portrays Pacelli snuggling up to a Jewess who is holding a copy of L'Humanité, the organ of the French Communist Party, whose headline reads Christenverfolgung in Deutschland, "Persecution of Christians in Germany." They are standing in a laboratory tagged as The Poison-Kitchen of the Popular Front, and the flask and retort are labeled "Atrocious Lies" and "Anti-Nazi." The cartoon is titled "The Cardinal's Excursion to France," and the caption reads, "She may not be a beauty, but she sure can cook!"

The point of the cartoon is to suggest that the Vatican was in league with the Marxists to subvert Nazism by spreading lies about it. The absurdity of the suggestion does not concern us. What is key is the fact that, not only did the Nazis despise Pacelli, but they despised him precisely as anti-Nazi, to the extent that they portrayed him as unscrupulously anti-Nazi -- as well as philo-Semitic and soft on Communists. Far from the figure of "Hitler's Pope" in embryo, the SS saw Pacelli as a demonic adversary.

But the truly dispositive clue might easily be missed by its obviousness: Pacelli is simply identified by the cartoonist as "Pacelli," not as the Vatican's Secretary of State. Consider what that means. How many lay Catholics, today, presented with a caricature of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, could identify him as the Vatican Secretary of State? How many German soldiers could do so? How likely is it, today, that a diplomatic visit made by a Vatican Secretary of State to a country not one's own would register with a soldier on active duty in peacetime?

The conclusion is inescapable: not only was Pacelli anti-Nazi, he was so recognizably vexatious to the Nazi cause that, even though he was mere churchman in the supreme age of Realpolitik, his surname itself sufficed to identify and damn him to the Nazi rank-and-file. Put in the balance of critical historical judgment, thousands of pages of essays, analysis, and diplomatic correspondence don't outweigh that single flimsy cartoon.
Related CWN Stories: • Papal envoy in Israel backs off boycott threat

Turkish media report torture of Christian murder victims

( - Three Christian murder victims were brutally tortured for hours before their death, Turkish media reports reveal.
The Islamic zealots who attacked a Christian publishing house in the city of Malatya on April 18 prolonged the suffering of their victims by stabbing them repeatedly with dull knives, the media report. A Sabah newspaper story notes that one victim, the German missionary Tilman Geske, suffered 156 knife wounds.
An AsiaNews correspondent notes that the Turkish media have provided gruesome details of the crime, but still shy away from mentioning the motivation of the killers, who were apparently influenced by a vitriolic anti-Christian propaganda campaign which still continues in Turkey.
The Hurriyet newspaper reports that the attackers were led by a 22-year-old, Emre Gunaydin, who threw himself from a window to his death before police could capture him. Police are reportedly still looking for several accomplices to the crime, with 10 young men already in custody.
The Sabah story says that the attacks had originally intended to kill the owner of the Zirve publishing house, Martin de Lenge. However, when they could not find him, they killed the three Christian employees who were in the offices.
The leading Islamic figure in Turkey-- who met with Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) during his visit there last November-- condemned the killings. "Murder cannot be justified by religion," said Grand Mufti Ali Bardakoglu. "Such heinous murders are a most grave sin. This is a betrayal of Islam."
Pray for them

Abortion is like divorce

Yesterday Anne Atkins again did Thought for the Day (see below) on the Today Programme and again touched a raw nerve by talking about Abortion. Later there was a piece which is listed as "Should religious people have a privileged position in society? We speak to Labour peer Lord Harrison and Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday." Hitchens this time was pro-religion. This morning Today invited people to discuss whether Atheists and Agnostics should take part in this slot. Send them an email

Abortion is like divorce: it is never a good thing. It may arguably be the lesser of two evils, but it is never a reason for rejoicing. So when the Department of Health puts out a statement reassuring us that "the statistics show that the number of abortions performed remains stable year on year" it hardly seems cause for congratulation. Especially when that statistic is over 500 abortions a day, at a cost of over 70 million a year to the NHS.
This subject divides us passionately. And yet surely almost all of us are both pro-choice and pro-life? No civilised person wants either to force a woman to give birth to a baby she dreads, or to end the life of a healthy unborn child. We may disagree about which is worse, but we surely concur that both are pretty undesirable. Can we not agree on other things, then, which might help to reduce the statistics?
Open access to all information, for instance: Some years ago, the Pro-Life Alliance put up 50 candidates for the General Election, specifically to earn the right to make a party political broadcast. I saw that broadcast, and it was the most powerful few minutes of film I've ever seen. Apart from back-ground music, it only consisted of facts, figures and photographs, yet it was banned by every single television channel. Why? Because the images could cause offence. Indeed: but if the truth is unpalat-able, isn't it even more important to see it? It's not hard to think of upsetting television footage we tol-erate without even the need to know.
Also genuine freedom of speech: I was asked to write an article on the negative effects on the mental and physical health of some women who have abortions, and soon discovered an extreme reluctance even to discuss such matters. Of course this was selective information, and as such needed a balance: we also ought to know the negative effects of withholding abortion. Truthful education means all the evidence, all the arguments, all facts and all interpretations. If we don't like a particular bias, the an-swer is more, not less information.
And real choice: The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative gives help to women with "crisis pregnan-cies", enabling them to keep the baby if they wish to by giving equipment, support and money. Offered entirely without pressure, it's hard to see what objection could be raised to it - though there have been those, sadly and predictably, who have accused it of "bribing" women. But in recent years there has also been more consensus, and glowing accolades from unexpected pro-choice quarters.
I was at a conference, over the weekend of the anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, where many wondered what Wilberforce's cause might be today. Some of the world's worst atrocities have been committed against people denied human status - because they are black, because they are Jewish... and now, perhaps, because they are not yet born.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

O Glorious Happy Day

Today is the anniversary of the Election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Watching the video clip, still brings me great joy, but that day: what joy.

May the Lord grant him a long and happy reign.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pope: man needs faith and reason to realize his aim to become similar to God

In his illustration of the figure of Clement of Alexandria, Benedict XVI affirms that faith is the true philosophy, “the true knowledge of the road to take in our life’s journey”, but that in order to contemplate God “the practise of virtues” that is good deeds, are also needed. The Pope blesses the torch for the “John Paul II” pilgrimage of peace, which will take place from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.
Vatican city (AsiaNews) – “Man is called to become like God” and he has “the complementary wings of faith and reason” in order to reach that truth, which is Jesus Christ. Benedict XVI returned once again to a familiar and dear theme today, illustrating the figure of Clement of Alexandria, “Master of dialogue between faith and reason” in the second century, to over 45 thousand people present in St Peter’s square for the general audience.
In a sunbathed square, still dressed in flowers from birthday celebrations, on the eve of the second anniversary of his election – provoking the Pope to observe a “festive climate” - the Pontiff sustained that the one true philosophy is faith, “true knowledge of the road to take in life”.
Illustrating Clement Alexandria’s works which “accompany the baptised catechumen’s journey step by step”, Benedict XVI attributed him with having “rebuilt” the second great occasion for dialogue between Christianity and Greek philosophy, after the first occasion, conducted by Paul “failed in may ways”.
In his thoughts, reason leads to knowledge, in Greek gnosi, but only Knowledge of the truth which is Christ Jesus, is real knowledge: “authentic gnosi is a development of the faith within the soul that he has converted”. But “knowledge of Christ is not just a thought, it is also love which opens the eyes and transforms man and creates union with Logos”, which is God. This is how contemplation is reached. But in order to arrive at the contemplation of God “the practice of virtues” are also needed; intellectual knowledge is not enough: in the journey towards perfection clement “gives as muck importance to moral requirements as to intellectual ones” and as a result “good deeds must accompany one on one’s life journey, just as a shadow follows the body: they are never separate, true gnosi cannot coexist with evil deeds”.
According to Clement the heart of a “true gnostic” contains two virtues: “freedom from passions” and love which “assure an intimate union with God and with contemplation”. “Love – continued the Pope – gifts perfect peace, and enables the true gnostic to face even the greatest of sacrifices, even the supreme sacrifice, and thus helps him on step by step towards the heights of virtues. Thus the ideal of ancient philosophy, that is the freedom from ones passions, is redefined by Clement and joined together with love, in the man’s constant journey to liken himself to God, which represents the journey of knowledge of true gnosi”.
Thus, in the Pope’s words, we come to what Clement defines as man’s primary aim: “to liken himself to God” and this “is possible thanks, because we are made in the likeness of God” in the moment of creation.
At the end of the audience Pope Benedict XVI blessed the “John Paul II” torch of peace which will be carried from Bethlehem to Jerusalem in a marathon-pilgrimage on April 23to 28th. Palestinian and Israeli students will join the IV edition of the run along with 200 Italian students from across Italy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy 80th Birthday Holy Father

Church scandal reflects ascetical breakdown

Here is an extract from a proposition paper of the Linacre Centre on the sexual abuse crisis in the US, it argues we have moved to therapeutic culture from an ascetic one and that the solution lies within our own tradition. The whole article can be found here, it seems provocative and challenging, a far cry from the spirituality of Broke Back Mountain!

We recognize both the need for policy changes by the US bishops on sexual misconduct and the further instruction by the Vatican on the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood, but observe that these do not address the scandal’s first cause. A spiritual malaise and the concurrent collapse in ascetical discipline in the middle of the twentieth century created psychologically untenable conditions for many priests and bishops. This malaise, which remains with us, was the prime effect of the failure of religious purpose and discipline and its most visible signs were a defiance of religious authority, the precipitous decline in seminary enrollments, and the uniquely sexual features of the scandal. Ascetical discipline was practiced better in the first half of the twentieth century when the purpose of religion was embraced and misconduct by priests was rare. What changed between the first and second halves of the twentieth century were not the management policies on sex abuse and secrecy at all costs-- these remained a constant throughout—nor do we have evidence to show that the personality features of seminarians or priests changed in any fundamental way that would account for the nature and the magnitude of the crisis-- in its early stages at least. Rather, the core change over the course of the twentieth century was one of purpose or allegiance-- leaving behind ascetical discipline, having disdain for religious tradition, and adopting the therapeutic mentality, a popular belief that fulfillment of the human person springs from emotional desire in a quest for self-definition, or self-actualization, without regard to an objective philosophical, religious or moral truth. Further, the therapeutic mentality views sin as a social concern and discourages loyalty to religious authority; it is profoundly anti-ascetical.

For centuries the ascetical life of Catholic priests and religious brothers and sisters included a strict discipline that by today’s standards would appear as nothing less than self-abusive. Prayer at hours through the night, a severely restricted diet, sleeping in unheated cells on wooden planks covered with a thin layer of straw, donning course woolen clothing in all seasons of the year, not to mention the practice of strapping one’s self with small knotted chords, were seen by many as necessary steps for a life dedicated to the service of God. The belief in ascetical discipline endured throughout Christendom, in the East and in the West, because the Church understood that self-denial and periods of bodily deprivation were necessary to encourage a spirit of poverty and the spirit of repentance, and to check human passions, including the strong sexual appetite, all for the ultimate purpose of giving glory to God and to depend upon Him in all things. There were abuses, of course, and the reforms over the centuries in the Church give recognition to the fact that the ascetical life was not always lived well. Nevertheless, driving the development of the ascetical tradition was a religious culture of hope and love-- hope that one can genuinely train his or her spiritually destructive passions, and the expectation that the meek and merciful would achieve a love of Jesus Christ. It was the ascetical discipline that in no small measure protected the early Church from the onslaughts of pagan sexuality, and indeed, contributed mightily to the development of Christian culture.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pope Celebrates Divine Mercy

The Pope celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday today, and it was also his birthday celebration, he is 80 tomorrow.
Around the Pope there seems to be a ring of Italian and German princesses, who give him hats, this one seems just a size or two, too large and rests on the Apostolic ears.
Is it Marini or Gammerelli again.
I have to admit getting exasperated with Signor Gammerelli who used "the conclave, Padre" and even, "one of my best tailors died, Padre", to explain why a promised delivery date of four months grew into eleven. However when I said, "but I am having lunch with the Taxis, I want it for that", the "next month" dropped to, "Si, it will be ready in three days, Monsignore!"

Now to be serious...
Teresa Benedetto's translation of the Pope's homily this morning, at the Mass in honor of his 80th birthday.
We are gathered to reflect on the completion of a not-brief period of my existence. Obviously, the liturgy should not be used to speak of one's own self, but one's life can serve to proclaim the mercy of God. "Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me," says a Psalm (63[66],16).
I have always considered it a great gift of Divine Mercy that my birth and rebirth were granted to me together,as it were, on the same day, in the sign of the Easter Vigil. And so on the same day, I was born into my own family and into the family of God. And I thank God because I have experienced what 'family' means. I have experienced what 'fatherhood' means, such that I have been made to understand the word of God the Father internally.
Human experience has given me access to the great and benevolent Father who is in heaven. Before Him, we carry a responsibility, but at the same time, He gives us confidence because in His justice, there is always that mercy and goodness with which He accepts our weaknesses and supports us, so that gradually, we may learn to walk straight. I thank God because I experienced profoundly what maternal goodness means, being always open to whoever seeks shelter, and as such, able to give me my freedom. I thank God for my sister and brother who, with their help, were faithfully beside me throughout my life. I thank God for the companions I met along the way, for the advisers and friends that He has given me. I am thankful in particular because from the very first day, I was able to enter and to grow in the great community of believers, among whom the frontiers between life and death, heaven and earth, have been thrown open.
I thank God for having learned so many things dy drawing from the wisdom of this community, which encompasses not only all human experience from the most remote times: Their wisdom is not only human wisdom, but unites itself to God's own wisdom, eternal wisdom. In the first Reading of this Sunday, we are told that in the early days of the nascent Church, people brought their sick to the public squares, so that when Peter passed by, his shadow could fall on them. To that shadow, they attributed a healing power. Indeed, the shadow came from the light of Christ and therefore, it carried in it something of the power of Divine goodness. Peter's shadow, through the Catholic church, has fallen across my life from the very beginning, and I learned that it is a good shadow - a healing shadow because, precisely, it ultimately comes from Christ Himself. Peter was a man with all the weaknesses of a human being, but above all, he was a man full of passionate faith in Christ, full of love for Him. Through his faith and his love, Christ's healing power, his unifying force, has reached all men even through all the weaknesses of Peter. So let us look for Peter's shadow even today, in order that we may be in the light of Christ. Birth and rebirth. Earthly family and the family of God. This is the great gift of God's many mercies, the foundation on which we depend. But proceeding through life, I received another new but demanding gift: the call to priesthood. On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in 1951 when we - there were 40 others - found ourselves in the Cathedral of Freising prostrate on the ground and on us were invoked all the saints, the consciousness of the poverty of my existence in the face of this new mission weighed on me. So it was a consolation that the protection of God's saints, living and dead, was invoked over us.
I knew I would not be left alone. And what trust was instilled by the words of Jesus, who during the liturgy of Ordination, we could hear from the lips of our Bishop: "I no longer call you servants, but friends"! And I have been able to experience that profoundly. He, the Lord, is not just the Lord, but also a friend. He has placed His hand on me and He will not leave me. These words were pronounced later at the conferment of power to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and therefore, in the name of Christ, to pardon sins. It is the same thing we heard today in the Gospel: the Lord breathes on His disciples. He grants them his Spirit - the Holy Spirit: "Their sins will be remitted to whom you give remission..." The Spirit of Jesus is the power of forgiveness. It is the power of Divine Mercy, which makes it possible to begin again, always anew. The friendship of Jesus is the friendship of Him who makes us forgiving, of Him who forgives even us, who raises us continuously from our weaknesses and that way, teaches us, instills in us the comsciousness of our internal duty to love, the duty to reciprocate His trust with our loyalty.
In today's Gospel, we also heard the story of the encounter between the Apostle Thiomas and the Risen Lord. The Apostle was allowed to touch His wounds and so to recognize Him. And he recognizes Him, beyond the human identity of Jesus of Nazareth, in his true and profound identity: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20,28).
The Lord carries His wounds through eternity. He is a wounded God; He allowed Himself to be wounded out of love for us. The wounds are for us the sign that He understands us and that He allowed Himself to be wounded out of love for us. These wounds of His - how much we can touch them in the story of our times! Indeed, the Lord is always allowing Himself to be wounded for us! What better guarantee of His mercy and what consolation that means for us! And what certainty it gives us about who He is: "My Lord and my God!" These words constitute for us a duty to allow ourselves to be wounded in turn for Him.
God's mercies accompany us every day. It is enough that we have a vigilant heart to perceive it. We are too inclined to take note only of the daily cares that are imposed on us, as sons of Adam. But if we open our hearts, then even immersed in our daily concerns, we can continuously see how God is good with us, how He thinks of us in the small things, thus helping us to deal with larger problems.
And with the growing weight of responsiblity, the Lord also brought new help to my life. Repeatedly I see with grateful joy the ranks of those who sustain me with their prayers; who with their faith and their love help me to carry out my ministry; who are indulgent with my weaknesses, recognizing even in the shadow of Peter the beneficent light of Christ.
For this I give my heartfelt thanks to God and to you all. I ould like to end this homily with a prayer by Saint Pope Leo the Great, that prayer which, 30 years ago, I wrote on the commemorative card of my episcopal ordination: "Pray to our good God, so that in our day, He may reinforce the faith, multiply love and increase the peace. May he make me, His poor servant, adequate for His work and useful for your edification, and grant that I may render service so that, along with the time I am given, my dedication should grow." Amen.

Pope's Book

Father Zuhlsdorf on Jesus of Nazareth the Popes New Book, it will be published on Monday in Italian and German, the English speaking world will have to wait until 15th May.

One of the engines driving Pope Ratzinger’s book was his reading a work 15 years ago by a rabbi, Jakob Neusner, A Rabbi Talks With Jesus. Benedict returns often to his insights.
For example, His Holiness recounts his reading of Neusner’s book, wherein Neusner spends a day with Jesus, following him in an interior dialogue and then returns to his study of Torah with other rabbis. One rabbi says to the interior Neusner, “613 precepts were given by Moses, 365 negatives ones corresponding to the number of days of the year and 248 positives corresponding to the number of parts of the body. David comes along and reduces them to 11… Isaiah reduces them down to 2. Habakkuk distills them to one only, as it is written: ‘The righteous one will live by his faith (Hab 2,4)’. ‘And so’, a rabbi asks the interior Neusner, ‘is this what Jesus has to say?’, Neusner responds, ‘ Not quite, but almost.’ The other rabbi: ‘What did he leave out?’ Neusner: ‘Nothing.’ The other rabbi: ‘Then what did he add?’ Neusner: ‘Himself.’ The point being that Neusner will not follow Jesus because of the radical “I” of Jesus’ message. Neusner cites Matthew 19:21: “If you want to perfect… follow me.” For Ratzinger, this helps create a conceptual bridge: “The perfection required by the Torah, being holy as God is holy (cf. Lev 19,2; 11,44), now consists in following Jesus.”

This little episode from Pope Benedict’s book is an object lesson in his theological method. He is always concerned to keep faith and reason in the right perspective, but always in play in their proper roles. Moreover, Ratzinger
has always used interesting non-Christian or non-Catholic, or even errant doctrines as springboards for theological work. No one who has read enough Ratzinger is surprise that he does this, even though his nimbleness leaves one a bit breathless. For example, I think it can be argued that Joseph Ratzinger probably knows more about Liberation Theology than anyone. It might surprise some that he uses points of Liberation Theology in one of his own works on liturgy. Consider using the image of Christ is “Liberator” when working theologically with liturgical issues. This is what he did in A New Song for the Lord: Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today.

The Pope sets out like so many, to search for the Historical Jesus. Someone is always doing this, of course. Jesus is usually morphed into someone else every thirty years or so, and always at the expense of Jesus Himself. These these searches wind up emphasizing one dimension of Christ into order to underscore another. Understanding that there will always be more to say about Jesus, the Pope offers this work, fully expecting that it will be met with resistance and criticism from some circles.

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...