Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day in DC

Yesterday, the 38th March for Life, the Friars from Philadelphia went on pilgrimage to give witness and participate w/ 100s of thousands of other prolifers in the prayer and petition to overturn Roe vs. Wade.  Our morning began with the praying of the Divine Office and Holy Mass; the superior of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy got some donuts for the brothers (we are in need of nourishment for the long journey... haha). Once we had our sugary fix, we quickly got last minute things together to head on the road, south, to DC.

Here we see Fr. Matthew and Bro. Gerard anxiously preparing for the roadtrip, haha.

Once we got on the road, the brothers chatted, prayed, read, slept, listened to a little music, trying to soak every little bit of warmth that could be stored in anticipation of the FREEZING temps in the nation's Capital(ol?).

we arrived and the sign is together... there is Bro. Daniel, pumped and READY to march FOR LIFE!!!

Fr. Matthew w/ a look of sheer pride.... 

Postulant Josiah's feet were numb, but that wouldn't stop him from smiling and loving BABIES!!

Our Bro. James, manning the sign w/ a smile... he's freezing cold, but he loves BABIES more than worrying about the cold!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hebdomada Tertia per annum

This homily, from Fr. John Speekman, an Australian, speaks to the very heart of obedience and steadfastness to the Faith.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
Isaiah 8:23- 9:3; 1Corinthians 1:10-13.17; Matthew 4:12-23
I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe's people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you.
In my opinion there is nothing more demoralising and destructive going on in our Catholic Church today than division, and it’s everywhere. Division causes peace and joy to evaporate and replaces them with tension and squabbling. The great temptation, of course, is to try to paper over the serious differences tearing our Church apart but clearly that’s not working.
Recently an article appeared in the quarterly magazine of the National Council of Priests of Australia (which represents no small percentage of Australia’s clergy). This article was written by a priest. It condemned Pope John Paul as ‘out of touch in scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener.’ Pope Benedict and Pope Paul VI were similarly rubbished. This priest slated the ‘theologically limited’ Roman Curia as well as our present bishops whom he sees as ‘low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence.’ He dissents from various key teachings of the Church, calling them ‘policies’ and consistently refers to the vocation of priesthood as a ‘job’. All in all, and without exaggeration, this article was enough to make one cry. What was totally lacking was love for and trust in the Church.

The next article, by another priest, aimed to demonstrate that missing Mass was not a big deal and should not worry us much. ‘In none of Jesus’ teachings do we find exhortations or commands to participate in weekly services of worship,’ he confidently asserts, as though Holy Mother Church had never existed.
Indeed, Chloe’s people were right: My dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you.
The ‘serious differences’ are really a profound crisis of faith. Catholics are unbelievably confused about the Faith. It seems all has boiled down to ‘opinions’ rather than obedience.
There is continual and deliberate spreading of errors in every segment of the Catholic Church by large numbers of priests and laity. The interior disunity of the Church is a bleeding sore which no one seems willing to stem. What a disaster! And what suffering for those Catholics who know the Faith and who know how things should actually be in their parishes!
Almost entirely gone is any notion of sin and so there is a general acceptance of those who habitually live in sin and there are many who do so. Confession has all but disappeared as a result of the confusion caused by disobedient priests who illicitly used the third rite of Reconciliation for many years. All this has resulted in parishes with great attendance at the parish barbeque and negligible numbers seriously living the Christian life, which has been reduced to ‘doing jobs at Mass’ and engaging in social activity around the parish.
As a priest committed to orthodoxy in faith and morals, in liturgical worship, obedience to Rome and especially, love for the Church, I meet with extraordinary opposition from priests and laity who are strangely angered and even scandalised at me. I believe it is because these priests have somehow come to believe that they have been commissioned to change the Church while I, and many like me, have clung to the apparently outdated notion that we should be letting the Church try to change us.
Pope Paul VI, one year before his death, said: There is a great uneasiness, at this time, in the world and in the Church, and that which is in question is the faith … What strikes me, when I think of the Catholic world, is that within Catholicism, there seems sometimes to predominate a non-Catholic way of thinking, and it can happen that this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism, will tomorrow become the stronger. But it will never represent the thought of the Church. (The Secret Paul VI by Jean Guitton, pages 152 and 153)
From prison Paul wrote to implore the Ephesians to preserve ‘the unity of the Spirit’ so that they would not be ‘carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit.’(Eph 4:1.14)
To Timothy he wrote: The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course… . (2Tim 4:3-5)
Be careful always to choose the right course! This is not advice; it is a warning - a warning on which depends our relationship with Christ and his Church and, therefore, our eternal future.
Many orthodox priests are anguished by the present state of our Church. Pope Paul VI rightly foresaw that it would become worse in succeeding years. I call upon you, my friends, to be equally concerned and to make every effort you can to learn the Faith and live the Faith of the Catholic Church and to resist anyone, anywhere, who attempts to pervert or misrepresent it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day of Penance

This was from March for Life, 2009.  The Parish and School of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Mercedarian Friar,  from Philadelphia.

Today, we remember the infamous decision which ushered a complete wave that transformed the moral compass of our nation. It was, indeed, stamping out of the definitive call of His Holiness, Paul VI, to love, defend, support and promote life.  On this day, the Supreme Court handed down its decision giving women a constitutional right to abort the lives of their children in the womb.  Thousands upon tens-of thousands gather in Washington, D.C., today to give witness to the ultimate and most precious gift of God -- namely, LIFE.  They gather to pray, sing praise to God, seek His mercy and forgiveness, and provide a glimmer of hope to the numerous young men and women who are simply held captive to the thought that there is NO OTHER SOLUTION.

The Friars at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy have made it a special point to pray a novena in Reparation for the Decision of Roe vs. Wade, and to beg for God's Mercy upon OUR souls for those times when were a little more silent about the tragedy of abortion and the other insults to human life and dignity.  The Friars will travel to D.C., Monday morning, to March and be in solidarity with the movement to protect, promote, and proclaim human life and dignity.

If you cannot be at the March, on January 24, offer a moment of prayer to be solidarity with the pro-lifers everywhere; offer a prayer to petition and reparation and thanksgiving.

This is 'Sonny'. He's the godson of one of the Friars and HE is pro-life, too!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Solemnity of the Dedication of the Chapel of Our Holy Mother

Ten years ago, today, His Excellency, Bishop Joseph Martino, consecrated the altar and dedicated the chapel of the Mercedarian Friars at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, in Philadelphia. In grateful Thanksgiving to Almighty God and the beneficence of Our Blessed Mother, we commemorate this day with great Solemnity and immense JOY! Happy FEAST!

Here is a picture of our small Chapel taken from the Solemnity of Our Lady of Ransom.  Fr. Matthew H. Phelan, O.de M., Superior of the Monastery is leading the Holy Rosary with our Third Order of Mercy and some members of a local Praesidium of the Legion of Mary.  Following the Rosary, the friars, other clergy, the Third Order and the Legion of Mary offered Solemn Vespers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Novena of Christian Unity

We find ourselves in the midst of the 'Week of Prayer for Christian Unity'.  In reflection upon this, it needs to be said that such a week is not an invention that comes to us following the Second Vatican Council.  Rather, it was an intention of the Church prior to the Council.  In fact, as I understand it, beginning on the Feast of the Chair of Peter at Rome, the Church prayed daily for the unity of the flock under one Shepherd, in one Church.  This great "novena" ended with the Festival of the the Conversion of Paul.  The intervening days included great Feasts of Martyrs, Virgins, Confessors who suffered and persevered in the Faith for the greater honor and glory of God and of His Most Blessed Mother.

I thought that I would review the Introit and the Collecta from the Votive Mass which may have been offered at some point in this Week -- that is the Votive Mass for the Unity of the Church.

Introit: Save us, O Lord our God: and gather us from among the nations: that we may give thanks unto Thy holy name: and may glory in Thy praise. Ps. Give glory to the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever. Glory be to the Father....

What is important to consider in this the opening words of the Mass is the prayer of the Church toward Her Lord and Master to gather us from our differences and from the "scatteredness" of our world into a body, into a flock, into a FAMILY who give honor and praise to him.  And in that unity, which ONLY God can give, we participate in His glory and experience His LOVING mercy, through the sacraments.

Collect: O God, Who settest straight what has gone astray, and gatherest together what is scattered, and keepest what Thou hast gathered together: we beseech Thee in Thy mercy to pour down on Christian people the grace of union with Thee, that, putting disunion aside and joining themselves to the true Shepherd of Thy Church, they may be able to render Thee worthy service. Through our Lord.

The Church, that bulwark and defense against the wiles of the devil, is at the same time the true harbor and port of the ship that sails the seas of the world on a journey toward heaven.  She has the complete map, a working compass, and a sure rudder that strong.  The test of Faith is to remain aboard during storms, boredom, and/or restlessness.... At times, the emotions lead us astray and we THINK that we find assurance and consolation in what feeds those emotions.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Feast of the Pontifical Approbation of the Order of Mercy, January 17, 1235

From Historical Synthesis of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy:
With the bull Devotionis vestrae, on January 17, 1235, in Perugia, Pope Gregory IX canonically incorporated the new Order in the universal Church. For that reason, with its brief text and simple structure, this bull is especially important for the Order’s history. Some fundamental elements proceed from it.
When the bull was sent, the Order of Mercy already existed as an organized religious institution with its Master and its brothers living together like the military orders and it was known as the House of Saint Eulalia of Barcelona.
The Order had requested the bull. In fact, it was addressed to the Master, namely to Peter Nolasco and to his brothers as the response to the plea sent to the pope.
In addition, the bull presupposed that the said religious organization was functioning with the approbation of the appropriate diocesan authority. If the Roman Pontiff had not had reliable documents to that effect, he would not have granted the confirmation bull.

Likewise, it presupposed that from its foundation in 1218, the Order of Mercy was following the Rule of Saint Augustine in what pertained to the organization of life in common. However, it had not yet been officially incorporated in any of the religious institutions approved by the Church. In fact, at the time, the religious institutions approved by the Church formed several groups according to the Rule which they observed in keeping with the dispositions of the Fourth Lateran Council: the group observing the Rule of Saint Basil, the group following the Rule of Saint Augustine, the group serving under the Rule of Saint Benedict and the group of those who had their own Rules with the approbation of the Holy See. This bull ratified the addition of the Order of Mercy to the group of religious institutions which observed the Rule of Saint Augustine.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Provincial Government in Chile

We remember our confreres in Chile as they have, this past week, elected a new Provincial Government.  Let the grace and protection of Our Most Holy Mother of Mercy, guide and lead them in the ways of Her Divine Son.  Let nothing be on their lips, in their minds or their hearts, that does not breathe forth love for her!

From Left to right: Fr. Ramón Villagrán Arias, Counsillor, Fr. Edgardo Arriagada Figueroa, Counsillor, Most Rev. Fr. Pablo Bernardo Ordone, Master General, Very Rev. Fr. Ricardo Morales Galindo, Provincial, Fr. Carlos Anselmo Espinoza Ibacache, Cousillor, Fr. Mario Salas Becerra, Counsillor.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feast of S. Hilary, Confessor

From a General Audience of H.H., Benedict XVI, feliciter regnans, from October 10, 2007

Today, I would like to talk about a great Father of the Church of the West, St Hilary of Poitiers, one of the important Episcopal figures of the fourth century. In the controversy with the Arians, who considered Jesus the Son of God to be an excellent human creature but only human, Hilary devoted his whole life to defending faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, Son of God and God as the Father who generated him from eternity.
We have no reliable information on most of Hilary's life. Ancient sources say that he was born in Poitiers, probably in about the year 310 A.D. From a wealthy family, he received a solid literary education, which is clearly recognizable in his writings. It does not seem that he grew up in a Christian environment. He himself tells us of a quest for the truth which led him little by little to recognize God the Creator and the incarnate God who died to give us eternal life. Baptized in about 345, he was elected Bishop of his native city around 353-354. In the years that followed, Hilary wrote his first work, Commentary on St Matthew's Gospel. It is the oldest extant commentary in Latin on this Gospel. In 356, Hilary took part as a Bishop in the Synod of Béziers in the South of France, the "synod of false apostles", as he himself called it since the assembly was in the control of Philo-Arian Bishops who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. "These false apostles" asked the Emperor Constantius to have the Bishop of Poitiers sentenced to exile. Thus, in the summer of 356, Hilary was forced to leave Gaul.
Banished to Phrygia in present-day Turkey, Hilary found himself in contact with a religious context totally dominated by Arianism. Here too, his concern as a Pastor impelled him to work strenuously to re-establish the unity of the Church on the basis of right faith as formulated by the Council of Nicea. To this end he began to draft his own best-known and most important dogmatic work: De Trinitate (On the Trinity). Hilary explained in it his personal journey towards knowledge of God and took pains to show that not only in the New Testament but also in many Old Testament passages, in which Christ's mystery already appears, Scripture clearly testifies to the divinity of the Son and his equality with the Father. To the Arians he insisted on the truth of the names of Father and Son, and developed his entire Trinitarian theology based on the formula of Baptism given to us by the Lord himself: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".
The Father and the Son are of the same nature. And although several passages in the New Testament might make one think that the Son was inferior to the Father, Hilary offers precise rules to avoid misleading interpretations: some Scriptural texts speak of Jesus as God, others highlight instead his humanity. Some refer to him in his pre-existence with the Father; others take into consideration his state of emptying of self(kenosis), his descent to death; others, finally, contemplate him in the glory of the Resurrection. In the years of his exile, Hilary also wrote the Book of Synods in which, for his brother Bishops of Gaul, he reproduced confessions of faith and commented on them and on other documents of synods which met in the East in about the middle of the fourth century. Ever adamant in opposing the radical Arians, St Hilary showed a conciliatory spirit to those who agreed to confess that the Son was essentially similar to the Father, seeking of course to lead them to the true faith, according to which there is not only a likeness but a true equality of the Father and of the Son in divinity. This too seems to me to be characteristic: the spirit of reconciliation that seeks to understand those who have not yet arrived and helps them with great theological intelligence to reach full faith in the true divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 360 or 361, Hilary was finally able to return home from exile and immediately resumed pastoral activity in his Church, but the influence of his magisterium extended in fact far beyond its boundaries. A synod celebrated in Paris in 360 or 361 borrows the language of the Council of Nicea. Several ancient authors believe that this anti-Arian turning point of the Gaul episcopate was largely due to the fortitude and docility of the Bishop of Poitiers. This was precisely his gift: to combine strength in the faith and docility in interpersonal relations. In the last years of his life he also composed the Treatises on the Psalms, a commentary on 58 Psalms interpreted according to the principle highlighted in the introduction to the work: "There is no doubt that all the things that are said in the Psalms should be understood in accordance with Gospel proclamation, so that, whatever the voice with which the prophetic spirit has spoken, all may be referred nevertheless to the knowledge of the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, Passion and Kingdom, and to the power and glory of our resurrection" (Instructio Psalmorum, 5). He saw in all the Psalms this transparency of the mystery of Christ and of his Body which is the Church. Hilary met St Martin on various occasions: the future Bishop of Tours founded a monastery right by Poitiers, which still exists today. Hilary died in 367. His liturgical Memorial is celebrated on 13 January. In 1851 Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the universal Church.
To sum up the essentials of his doctrine, I would like to say that Hilary found the starting point for his theological reflection in baptismal faith. In De Trinitate, Hilary writes: Jesus "has commanded us to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28: 19), that is, in the confession of the Author, of the Only-Begotten One and of the Gift. The Author of all things is one alone, for one alone is God the Father, from whom all things proceed. And one alone is Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things exist (cf. I Cor 8: 6), and one alone is the Spirit (cf. Eph 4: 4), a gift in all.... In nothing can be found to be lacking so great a fullness, in which the immensity in the Eternal One, the revelation in the Image, joy in the Gift, converge in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit" (De Trinitate 2, 1). God the Father, being wholly love, is able to communicate his divinity to his Son in its fullness. I find particularly beautiful the following formula of St Hilary: "God knows not how to be anything other than love, he knows not how to be anyone other than the Father. Those who love are not envious and the one who is the Father is so in his totality. This name admits no compromise, as if God were father in some aspects and not in others" (ibid., 9, 61).
For this reason the Son is fully God without any gaps or diminishment. "The One who comes from the perfect is perfect because he has all, he has given all" (ibid., 2, 8). Humanity finds salvation in Christ alone, Son of God and Son of man. In assuming our human nature, he has united himself with every man, "he has become the flesh of us all" (Tractatus super Psalmos 54, 9); "he took on himself the nature of all flesh and through it became true life, he has in himself the root of every vine shoot" (ibid., 51, 16). For this very reason the way to Christ is open to all - because he has drawn all into his being as a man -, even if personal conversion is always required: "Through the relationship with his flesh, access to Christ is open to all, on condition that they divest themselves of their former self (cf. Eph 4: 22), nailing it to the Cross (cf. Col 2: 14); provided we give up our former way of life and convert in order to be buried with him in his baptism, in view of life (cf. Col 1: 12; Rom6: 4)" (ibid., 91, 9).
Fidelity to God is a gift of his grace. Therefore, St Hilary asks, at the end of his Treatise on the Trinity, to be able to remain ever faithful to the baptismal faith. It is a feature of this book: reflection is transformed into prayer and prayer returns to reflection. The whole book is a dialogue with God. 
I would like to end today's Catechesis with one of these prayers, which thus becomes our prayer: 
"Obtain, O Lord", St Hilary recites with inspiration, "that I may keep ever faithful to what I have professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That I may worship you, our Father, and with you, your Son; that I may deserve your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you through your Only Begotten Son... Amen" (De Trinitate 12, 57).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blessed John Paul II??

There are rumors this morning that his beatification has been approved....

"...Religion does not represent a problem for society..."

The Holy Father's State of the World address
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you, the distinguished representatives of so many countries, to this meeting which each year assembles you around the Successor of Peter. It is a deeply significant meeting, since it is a sign and illustration of the place of the Church and of the Holy See in the international community. I offer my greetings and cordial good wishes to each of you, and particularly to those who have come for the first time. I am grateful to you for the commitment and interest with which, in the exercise of your demanding responsibilities, you follow my activities, those of the Roman Curia and thus, in some sense, the life of the Catholic Church throughout the world. Your Dean, Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, has interpreted your sentiments and I thank him for the good wishes which he has expressed to me in the name of all. Knowing how close-knit your community is, I am certain that today you are also thinking of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Baroness van Lynden-Leijten, who several weeks ago returned to the house of the Father. I prayerfully share your sentiments.
As a new year begins, our own hearts and the entire world continue to echo the joyful message proclaimed twenty centuries ago in the night of Bethlehem, a night which symbolizes humanity's deep need for light, love and peace. To the men and women of that time, as to those of our own day, the heavenly hosts brought the good news of the coming of the Saviour: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (Is 9:1). The mystery of the Son of God who became the son of man truly surpasses all human expectations. In its absolute gratuitousness this saving event is the authentic and full response to the deep desire of every heart. The truth, goodness, happiness and abundant life which each man and woman consciously or unconsciously seeks are given to us by God. In longing for these gifts, each person is seeking his Creator, for "God alone responds to the yearning present in the heart of every man and woman" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 23). Humanity throughout history, in its beliefs and rituals, demonstrates a constant search for God and "these forms of religious expression are so universal that one may well call man a religious being" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 28). The religious dimension is an undeniable and irrepressible feature of man's being and acting, the measure of the fulfilment of his destiny and of the building up of the community to which he belongs. Consequently, when the individual himself or those around him neglect or deny this fundamental dimension, imbalances and conflicts arise at all levels, both personal and interpersonal.
This primary and basic truth is the reason why, in this year's Message for World Day of Peace, I identified religious freedom as the fundamental path to peace. Peace is built and preserved only when human beings can freely seek and serve God in their hearts, in their lives and in their relationships with others.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence on this solemn occasion is an invitation to survey the countries which you represent and the entire world. In this panorama do we not find numerous situations in which, sadly, the right to religious freedom is violated or denied? It is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his relation with his Creator. Yet is this fundamental human right not all too often called into question or violated? It seems to me that society, its leaders and public opinion are becoming more and more aware, even if not always in a clear way, of this grave attack on the dignity and freedom of homo religious, which I have sought on numerous occasions to draw to the attention of all.
I did so during the past year in my Apostolic Journeys to Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, the United Kingdom and Spain. Above and beyond the diversity of those countries, I recall with gratitude their warm welcome. The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican in October, was a moment of prayer and reflection in which our thoughts turned insistently to the Christian communities in that part of the world which suffer greatly because of their fidelity to Christ and the Church.

Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply. To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are fully members. In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities. Need we repeat it? In the Middle East, Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties toward their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media" (Message to the People of God of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, 10). I appreciate the concern for the rights of the most vulnerable and the political farsightedness which some countries in Europe have demonstrated in recent days by their call for a concerted response on the part of the European Union for the defence of Christians in the Middle East. Finally, I would like to state once again that the right to religious freedom is not fully respected when only freedom of worship is guaranteed, and that with restrictions. Furthermore, I encourage the accompaniment of the full safeguarding of religious freedom and other humans rights by programmes which, beginning in primary school and within the context of religious instruction, will educate everyone to respect their brothers and sisters in humanity. Regarding the states of the Arabian Peninsula, where numerous Christian immigrant workers live, I hope that the Catholic Church will be able to establish suitable pastoral structures.
Among the norms prejudicing the right of persons to religious freedom, particular mention must be made of the law against blasphemy in PakistanI once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law, all the more so because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities. The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction: the worship of God furthers fraternity and love, not hatred and division. Other troubling situations, at times accompanied by acts of violence, can be mentioned in south and south-east Asia, in countries which for that matter have a tradition of peaceful social relations. The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated. In this regard, it is important for interreligious dialogue to favour a common commitment to recognizing and promoting the religious freedom of each person and community. And, as I remarked earlier, violence against Christians does not spare Africa. Attacks on places of worship in Nigeria during the very celebrations marking the birth of Christ are another sad proof of this.
In a number of countries, on the other hand, a constitutionally recognized right to religious freedom exists, yet the life of religious communities is in fact made difficult and at times even dangerous (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 15) because the legal or social order is inspired by philosophical and political systems which call for strict control, if not a monopoly, of the state over society. Such inconsistencies must end, so that believers will not find themselves torn between fidelity to God and loyalty to their country. I ask in particular that Catholic communities be everywhere guaranteed full autonomy of organization and the freedom to carry out their mission, in conformity with international norms and standards in this sphere.
My thoughts turn once again to the Catholic community of mainland China and its pastors, who are experiencing a time of difficulty and trial. I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to the authorities of Cuba, a country which in 2010 celebrated seventy-five years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations with the Holy See, that the dialogue happily begun with the Church may be reinforced and expanded.
Turning our gaze from East to West, we find ourselves faced with other kinds of threats to the full exercise of religious freedom. I think in the first place of countries which accord great importance to pluralism and tolerance, but where religion is increasingly being marginalized. There is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of societyChristians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions, and even in opposition to them, as for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals.
In this context, one can only be gratified by the adoption by the Council of Europe last October of a resolution protecting the right to conscientious objection on the part of medical personnel vis-à-vis certain acts which gravely violate the right to life, such as abortion.
Another sign of the marginalization of religion, and of Christianity in particular, is the banning of religious feasts and symbols from civic life under the guise of respect for the members of other religions or those who are not believers. By acting in this way, not only is the right of believers to the public expression of their faith restricted, but an attack is made on the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations. Last year, a number of European countries supported the appeal lodged by the Italian government in the well-known case involving the display of the crucifix in public places. I am grateful to the authorities of those nations, as well as to all those who became involved in the issue, episcopates, civil and religious organizations and associations, particularly the Patriarchate of Moscow and the other representatives of the Orthodox hierarchy, as well as to all those - believers and non-believers alike - who wished to show their sympathy for this symbol, which bespeaks universal values.
Acknowledging religious freedom also means ensuring that religious communities can operate freely in society through initiatives in the social, charitable or educational sectors. Throughout the world, one can see the fruitful work accomplished by the Catholic Church in these areas. It is troubling that this service which religious communities render to society as a whole, particularly through the education of young people, is compromised or hampered by legislative proposals which risk creating a sort of state monopoly in the schools; this can be seen, for example, in certain countries in Latin America. Now that many of those countries are celebrating the second centenary of their independence - a fitting time for remembering the contribution made by the Catholic Church to the development of their national identity - I exhort all governments to promote educational systems respectful of the primordial right of families to make decisions about the education of their children, systems inspired by the principle of subsidiarity which is basic to the organization of a just society.
Continuing my reflection, I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education which allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.
Ladies and Gentlemen, on this solemn occasion, allow me to state clearly several principles which inspire the Holy See, together with the whole Catholic Church, in its activity within the intergovernmental International Organizations for the promotion of full respect for the religious freedom of all. First, the conviction that one cannot create a sort of scale of degrees of religious intolerance. Unfortunately, such an attitude is frequently found, and it is precisely acts of discrimination against Christians which are considered less grave and less worthy of attention on the part of governments and public opinion. At the same time, there is a need to reject the dangerous notion of a conflict between the right to religious freedom and other human rights, thus disregarding or denying the central role of respect for religious freedom in the defence and protection of fundamental human dignity. Even less justifiable are attempts to counter the right of religious freedom with other alleged new rights which, while actively promoted by certain sectors of society and inserted in national legislation or in international directives, are nonetheless merely the expression of selfish desires lacking a foundation in authentic human nature. Finally, it seems unnecessary to point out that an abstract proclamation of religious freedom is insufficient: this fundamental rule of social life must find application and respect at every level and in all areas; otherwise, despite correct affirmations of principle, there is a risk that deep injustice will be done to citizens wishing to profess and freely practise their faith.
Promoting the full religious freedom of Catholic communities is also the aim of the Holy See in signing Concordats and other agreements. I am gratified that states in different parts of the world, and of different religious, cultural and juridical traditions, choose international conventions as a means of organizing relations between the political community and the Catholic Church, thus establishing through dialogue a framework of cooperation and respect for reciprocal areas of competence. Last year witnessed the signing and implementation of an Agreement for the religious assistance of the Catholic faithful in the armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and negotiations are presently under way with different countries. We trust that they will have a positive outcome, ensuring solutions respectful of the nature and freedom of the Church for the good of society as a whole.
The activity of the Papal Representatives accredited to states and international organizations is likewise at the service of religious freedom. I would like to point out with satisfaction that the Vietnamese authorities have accepted my appointment of a Representative who will express the solicitude of the Successor of Peter by visiting the beloved Catholic community of that country. I would also like to mention that in the past year the diplomatic presence of the Holy See was expanded in Africa, since a stable presence is now assured in three countries without a resident Nuncio. God willing, I will once more travel to that continent, to Benin next November, in order to consign the Apostolic Exhortation which will gather the fruits of the labours of the second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
Before this distinguished assembly, I would like once more to state forcefully that religion does not represent a problem for society, that it is not a source of discord or conflict. I would repeat that the Church seeks no privileges, nor does she seek to intervene in areas unrelated to her missionbut simply to exercise the latter with freedom. I invite everyone to acknowledge the great lesson of history: "How can anyone deny the contribution of the world's great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity. Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties. Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs" (Message for the Celebration of World Peace Day, 1 January 2011, 7).
A clear example of this was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: the centenary of her birth was celebrated at Tirana, Skopje and Pristina as well as in India, and a moving homage was paid to her not only by the Church but also by civil authorities and religious leaders, to say nothing of people of all religions. People like her show the world the extent to which the commitment born of faith is beneficial to society as a whole.
May no human society willingly deprive itself of the essential contribution of religious persons and communities! As the Second Vatican Council recalled, by guaranteeing just religious freedom fully and to all, society can "enjoy the benefits of justice and peace which result from faithfulness to God and his holy will" (Dignitatis Humanae, 6).
For this reason, as we exchange good wishes for a new year rich in concord and genuine progress, I exhort everyone, political and religious leaders and persons of every walk of life, to set out with determination on the path leading to authentic and lasting peace, a path which passes through respect for the right to religious freedom in all its fullness.
On this commitment, whose accomplishment calls for the involvement of the whole human family, I invoke the blessing of Almighty God, who has reconciled us with himself and with one another through his Son Jesus Christ our peace (Eph 2:14).
A Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Catechesis on the New Translation of the Roman Missal

From the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, "The Sacred Liturgy: Work of the Most Holy Trinity" 
Since Pentecost, the Church – present to the world – has understood herself as both the guardian of and path to the mystery of Jesus Christ. Christ abides in his Church continuing his work of salvation “until he comes” again (Cor 11:26). This work of salvation occurs principally when the Church gathers for the celebration of the Liturgy. Jesus has promised: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18.20). Although Jesus is present as Head of his Body the Church, the Liturgy is also to be understood as the work of the Most Holy Trinity.
God the Father is both the source and goal of the Liturgy (CCC § 1077).  From the beginning of creation, “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing . . . and destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1: 3-6).  Indeed, the whole of the Father’s work from the beginning of time to the end time is extravagant blessing and gift. All creation sings the glory and grandeur of God, and his blessing is manifold in all living things, especially in man and woman for they are created in God’s very image. Adam and Eve’s abuse of their extraordinary gifts led to a curse upon themselves and upon the whole earth. Here is the great measure of the Father’s blessing: his merciful refusal to abandon them and all humankind forever to darkness and hopelessness.
The Old Testament chronicles the great blessing of God’s plan of redemption, and his great deeds among his Chosen People. All culminates in the gift of the Messiah, the Son of God who gives his life in fulfilling the Father’s plan of redemption and salvation.
 “Seated [now glorified] at the right hand of the Father”(Heb 8:2). and pouring out upon the Church, the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ now acts through the Church and her sacraments. In these liturgical celebrations, it is his dying and rising – his self-offering for the sake of the world’s salvation – which is made present in our midst.  Unlike other historical events which happen once and then fade into the past, the event of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection transcends all times (CCC 1085).  It is present in all ages, to all who believe and seek redemption and salvation. To enter into this redemptive mystery of Christ is to be immersed in his grace and mercy and to give thanks to the Father, the source of this great blessing.
The risen Christ, one with the Father in his plan that the work of salvation be accomplished, entrusted to his Apostles – and to their successors through the ages – his power of redemption. In order to accomplish this great work, Christ, as he promised, is always present in his Church – principally in her liturgical celebrations. Specifically, he is present not only in the person of the priest... but also in the Church when she prays and sings ... in his word when the Scriptures are proclaimed . . . and in a most extraordinary way at Mass, in his holy Body and Blood. Our prayer, joined to his, provides an experience and foretaste of eternity’s praise.
In the Liturgy, it is the Holy Spirit who prepares the Church to encounter Christ in its midst by awakening and strengthening the community’s faith. As the Old Testament was a time of careful preparation for the advent of redemption in Christ, similarly the Spirit’s work is to prepare the assembly for the present time of its own redemption. As teacher of the faith, the Spirit helps unveil the mystery of Christ hidden in significant events and words of Old Testament prophets and psalmists, revealing them as prototypes of the mystery of Christ to the Apostles and early Church Fathers as well as to us in our day.
Since the Liturgy is truly the memorial of the mystery of Christ, the Spirit, referred to as the Church’s living memory, (CCC § 1099) recalls Christ and “all that he has done for us” (Cf. Jn  14.26) through all the scriptures that are read. By the Spirit, the Word of God deepens the faith of those who read or hear it with a ready heart and a response of acceptance and commitment.
It is also the Holy Spirit who makes the saving work of Christ in the Liturgy present and active by his transforming power (CCC § 1107).  The dying and rising of the Lord as an actual event happened only once and is never repeated. The celebration of that mystery and its consequences – an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power – will continue to the end time.  In the Eucharist, for example, the priest, imposing his hands over the bread and wine, asks the Father to send the Spirit upon the gifts that they might become the Body and Blood of the Lord. The efficacy of that invocation – with Jesus’ words of consecration – truly brings about the divine event of the dying and rising with the Lord, communion with Christ and within the Church.
Clearly, all liturgical prayer (to the Father, through the Son, and in the power of the Spirit) is Trinitarian in its essence. Where Jesus is, there is the Father; where the Father and Son are, there is the Holy Spirit.
Reflection questions:
1. In the Liturgy of the Church, how do we see the action of each of the Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity?
2.  In what parts of the Mass are the Persons of Father, Son, and Spirit most especially highlighted?
3. What was Adam and Eve’s response to the gifts given to them? What should be our response to the gift of the Liturgy?
Ever loving Father,
who is always faithful to his promises,
you gave us your Son to forgive us our sins
and sent your Spirit that we may grow in holiness.
Though these graces, may we always return to you, our source.
We ask this in through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Monday, January 10, 2011

Persecuted Church

picture from Here

Courtesy of Irish Times
AS ROME’S 7,000-strong Christian Copt community prepares to demonstrate against terrorism tomorrow in the wake of the recent bomb attack which killed 21 people outside a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI and senior Church figures have once again expressed their concern about the persecution of Christians throughout the world.
Speaking to the faithful in St Peter’s Square after he had celebrated the Epiphany Mass on Thursday, the pope offered special prayers and wishes for those eastern churches which “are currently sorely tested”.
Earlier in the week, the pope had called the January 1st bombing at the Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria a “despicable act of death”, comparing it to the widespread violent intimidation being suffered by Christians in Iraq.
Two Christians were killed in Iraq on December 30th as a result of 11 bomb attacks while the Iraqi Christian community was profoundly shaken by the October 31st explosion at the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady Of Perpetual Help in Baghdad.
That bombing killed 68 people, including two priests.
The Christmas-New Year period was also marked by deadly attacks on Christians in Nigeria and the Philippines. These killings also come in a week when the pope’s annual message for the January 1st World Day of Peace claimed that Christians were now the most persecuted religious group in the world.
In Genoa, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, in an Epiphany address, echoed the pope’s concerns.
“Together with the Holy Father, we are stunned by such religious intolerance and such violence. Along with the Holy Father, we call on the international community, starting with the European Union, to make itself heard and demand that the right to religious freedom be observed everywhere, without exception.”
Meanwhile, such is the ill-feeling generated by the Alexandria killings that a delegation from Rome’s Islamic community has been asked not to attend tomorrow’s anti-terrorism march by the city’s Copt community.
“We feel bitterness and sorrow for what we suffered in Eqypt,” said the Coptic bishop Barnaba el Soryany, adding that the Islamic community could hold their own demonstration but that this one was for “us orthodox Copts”.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Singing and the Sacred Liturgy

Some words of our Holy Father:

THE IMPORTANCE of music in biblical religion is shown very simply by the fact that the verb “to sing” (with related words such as “song”, and. so forth) is one of the most commonly used words in the Bible. It occurs309 times in the Old Testament and thirty-six in the New. When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough. Areas of his existence are awakened that spontaneously turn into song. Indeed, man’s own being is insufficient for what he has to express, and so he in vites the whole of creation to become a song with him: “Awake, my soul! Awake, 0 harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, 0 Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithful ness to the clouds” (Ps 57:8f.). We find the first mention of singing in the Bible after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has now been definitively delivered from slavery. In a desperate situation, it has had an overwhelming experi ence of God’s saving power. Just as Moses as a baby was taken from the Nile and only then really received the gift of life, so Israel now feels as if it has been, so to speak, taken out of the water: it is free, newly endowed with the gift of itself from God’s own hands. In the biblical ac count, the people’s reaction to the foundational event of salvation is described in this sentence: “[T]hey believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Ex 14:31). But then follows a second reaction, which soars up from the first with elemental force: "Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord” (i 5: i). Year by year, at the Easter Vigil, Christians join in the singing of this song. They sing it in a new way as their song, because they know that they have been “taken out of the water” by God’s power, set free by God for authentic life. [The Spirit of the Liturgy, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), p. 136]
The singing of the Church comes ultimately out of love. It is the utter depth of love that produces the singing. “Cantare amantis est”, says St. Augustine, singing is a lover’s thing. In so saying, we come again to the trinitarian interpretation of Church music. The Holy Spirit is love, and it is he who produces the singing. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit who draws us into love for Christ and so leads to the Father. [The Spirit of the Liturgy, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), p. 142]
In liturgical music, based as it is on biblical faith, there is, therefore, a clear dominance of the Word; this music is a higher form of proclama tion. Ultimately, it rises up out of the love that responds to God’s love made flesh in Christ, the love that for us went unto death. After the Resurrection, the Cross is by no means a thing of the past, and so this love is always marked by pain at the hiddenness of God, by the cry that rises up from the depths of anguish, Kyrie eleison, by hope and by supplication. But it also has the privilege, by anticipation, of experiencing the reality of the Resur rection, and so it brings with it the joy of being loved, that gladness of heart that Haydn said came upon him when he set liturgical texts to music. Thus the relation of liturgical music to logos means, first of all, simply its relation to words. That is why singing in the liturgy has priority over instrumental music, though it does not in any way exclude it. It goes without saying that the biblical and liturgical texts are the normative words from which liturgical music has to take its bearings. This does not rule out the continuing creation of “new songs”, but in stead inspires them and assures them of a firm grounding in God’s love for mankind and his work of redemption. [The Spirit of Liturgy [SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000], p. 149]

Image of the Mercedarian Friars chanting the Divine Office during a Sunday of Lent, Philadelphia

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). Why did Jesus, the Sinless One, submit himself to John’s baptism? In this humble submission we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of his bloody death upon the cross. Jesus’ baptism is the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will. Out of love he consented to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. Do you know the joy of trust and submission to God?

The Father proclaimed his entire delight in his Son and spoke audibly for all to hear. The Holy Spirit, too, was present as he anointed Jesus for his ministry which began that day as he rose from the waters of the Jordan river. Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all who come to believe in him. At his baptism the heavens were opened and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, signifying the beginning of a new creation.

How can we enter into the mystery of Jesus’ humble self-abasement and baptism? Gregory of Nazianzus, a seventh century Church father tells us: “Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him." Do you want to see changes in your life? And do you want to become a more effective instrument of the gospel? Examine Jesus’ humility and ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude in your heart. As you do, heaven will open for you as well.  The Lord is ever ready to renew us in his Spirit and to anoint us for mission. We are called to be “light” and “salt” to those around us. The Lord wants his love and truth to shine through us that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of salvation. Ask the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit that you may radiate the joy of the gospel to those around you.

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and inflame my heart with the joy of the gospel. May I find joy in seeking to please you just as you found joy in seeking to please your Father".