Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006

Feast of the Holy Family

Pope Benedict's Angelus as reported in Asia News Italy:

All the values of family life – obedience, social and religious education, mutual dedication – are found in the Holy Family. “In the life spent in Nazareth, Jesus honoured the Virgin Mary and the just Joseph, submitting to their authority for all the time of his childhood and adolescence (cfr Lk 2:51-52). In this way, he highlighted the primary value of the family in the education of the person. Jesus was introduced to the religious community by Mary and Joseph, going to the synagogue of Nazareth. With them, he learned to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as narrated by the gospel passage proposed by today’s liturgy for our meditation. When he was 12, he stayed in the Temple and his parents took three days to find him. With this gesture, he made them understand that he had to ‘tend to his Father’s business’, that is, the mission entrusted to him by God (cfr Lk 2:41-52).”

Taking his cue from the gospel passage, Benedict XVI underlined that the family should take great care in “accompanying each of its members in the journey of discovery of God and in the plan He has in his or her regard. Mary and Joseph educated Jesus above all by their example: in his Parents, He knew all the beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as for the demands of justice that find fulfillment in love (cfr Rm 13:10). From them, he learned in the first place that God’s will be done and that spiritual ties are worth more than blood ties.”

The pope added: “The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the ‘prototype’ of each Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of marriage and fed by the Word and by the Eucharist, is called to realize the stupendous vocation and mission of being a living cell not only of society but of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for all mankind.”

The pontiff said: “Let us invoke the protection of the most Holy Mary and St Joseph for each family, especially for those in difficulties. May they support them so that they will be able to resist the prompting towards disintegration of certain [traits of] modern culture that undermines the very basis of the institution of the family. May they help Christian families to be, in every part of the world, a living image of the love of God.”

Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Design for the New Year

We Have a Winner!

The Fort Wayne Jaguars are my fantasy football league...from NFL.Com:

Fort Wayne Jaguars won the MICHIGAN BUCCANEERS LEAGUE Championship by a score of 75 to 70 over Michigan Madcows. Shaun Alexander led the team in scoring in the championship round and Drew Brees led the team in scoring for the season. Congrats once again to Fort Wayne Jaguars on a terrific Fantasy football Season. Hope to see you all next year!...

Vatican Denounces Saddam Execution

I have one question: Who constructed that noose?

From the Associated Press:

The Vatican spokesman on Saturday denounced Saddam Hussein's execution as
"tragic" and expressed worry it might fuel revenge and new violence.
The execution is "tragic and reason for sadness," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said,
speaking in French on Vatican Radio's French-language news program.
In separate comments to the station's English program, Lombardi said that capital
punishment cannot be justified "even when the person put to death is one guilty
of grave crimes," and he reiterated the Catholic Church's overall opposition to
the death penalty.
Executing Saddam "is not a way to reconstruct justice" in Iraqi society, the spokesman said. "It might fuel the spirit of revenge and sow seeds of new violence."
Lombardi expressed the hope that leaders "do everything possible" so that "from this dramatic situation ways might open to reconciliation and peace."
In an interview published in an Italian daily earlier in the week, the Vatican's top prelate for justice issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, said executing Saddam would mean punishing "a crime with another crime."

Where is an Unhappy Episcopalian to go?

From The Reading Eagle:

All it took the other day was hearing pop star Olivia Newton-John's
recording of the “Ave Maria” for Father Paul Zahl to feel that old, familiar tug
at his heartstrings.

Then came the voices in his head asking those nagging questions that
many weary Episcopalians have pondered in recent decades: “Why keep fighting?
Why not join the Roman Catholic Church?”

Thursday, December 28, 2006

An Urgent Summons to All Who Still Believe in Christ

To the Church and the World, an urgent summons from Pope Benedict XVI:

"Our Saviour is born to the world!" During the night, in our Churches, we
again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries,
remains ever new. It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for "a
great joy" has come "to all the people" (Lk 1:10). It is a message of hope, for
it tells us that, on that night over two thousand years ago, there "was born in
the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Angel of
Christmas announced it then to the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem;
today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: "The Saviour is
born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore him!".
But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which
knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even
in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by
a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the
virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a
global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and
self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested
So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the
belief that they are celebrating life?
How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9) came into the world. "The word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more "unto his own", and to those who receive him he gives "the power to become children of God"; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs
to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the
more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the
threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can
defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the
Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?
"Salvator noster": Christ is also the Saviour of men and women today. Who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth? Who will work to ensure the recognition, protection and promotion of the integral good of the human person as the condition for peace, respecting each man and every woman and their proper dignity? Who will help us to realize that with good will,
reasonableness and moderation it is possible to avoid aggravating conflicts and
instead to find fair solutions? With deep apprehension I think, on this festive
day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I
express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with
respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the
hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of
dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in
recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments. I am confident
that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon,
open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will
survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of
Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much
bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to
lead a normal life. I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will
heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that
in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts,
that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps
being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be
consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the
outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world,
in Europe and in Latin America.
"Salvator noster": this is our hope; this is the message that the Church proclaims once again this Christmas day. With the Incarnation, as the Second Vatican Council stated, the Son of God has in some way united himself with each man and women (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). The birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, as Pope
Saint Leo the Great noted. In Bethlehem the Christian people was born, Christ’s
mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total
solidarity. Our Saviour is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in
words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open
communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and
mutual service, truth, justice and love.
A community saved by Christ. This is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and his Eucharistic Body. Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Saviour before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfilment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the
rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but
through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that
through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17).
Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!

Muslims Appeal to Rome

For the right to worship in former mosque, now a Spanish Cathedral.

From the BBC:

The Roman Catholic bishop of Cordoba in southern Spain has rejected an appeal from Muslims for the right to pray in the city's cathedral, a former mosque.
Juan Jose Asenjo rejected the request made by Spain's Islamic Board in a letter to the Pope.

It had asked that the cathedral become an ecumenical temple where believers from all faiths could worship.

The bishop said such a move would not contribute to the peaceful co-existence between people of different religions.

On the contrary, he said in a statement late on Wednesday, the joint use of temples and places of worship would only generate confusion amongst the faithful.

An option would be to segment off a part of the Cathedral for Muslim prayer, similar to what exists in the House of Mary in Ephesus--recently visited by Pope Benedict.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Visit with the Cousins in Kentucky

Michael eating, my sister Ann talking to Amy (those are her reading glasses suspended in the air), Ann's daughter Alex kissing her mom.

Joshua and Joseph discuss super heroes.

"Why did God become man?" Pope Benedict

Today's Angelus on the Feast of St. John the Apostle, from Asia News Italy:
“Why did he do it? Why did God become man?”

The chant the angels began singing in the grotto—“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Lk 2, 14)—can help answer this question. The canticle of the night before Christmas, which is now in the Gloria, belongs to the liturgy as do the other three canticles from the New Testament which refer to Jesus’ birth and infancy: the Benedictus, the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.

Whilst these are included respectively in the morning Lauds, the evening Vesper prayer, and the nightly Compline, the Gloria found its place in the Holy Mass. To the angels’ words a few acclamations were added: "We praise You. We bless You. We adore You. We glorify You. We give You thanks for Your great Glory.” Later “Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” were added to form an ariose hymn of praise that was sung the first time during Christmas mass and then in all feast days. Included at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, the Gloria underscores the existing continuity between and the birth and the death of Christ, between Christmas and Easter, which are indissoluble aspects of the one and the same mystery of salvation.

The Gospel says that the angelic multitude sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will”. The angels announced that the birth of Christ to the shepherds “is” glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth. Therefore, these angelic words are conveniently placed on the grotto to explain the mystery of Christmas that is fulfilled in the nativity scene. The word “gloria” (doxa) indicates the splendour of God that his grateful creatures’ praise elicits. Paul said that it is “the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of (Jesus) Christ” (2 Cor 4, 6). “Peace" (eirene) summarise the fullness of the messianic gift, salvation, as the Apostle puts it, which is identified with Christ himself. “For he is our peace," (Eph 2, 14). There is, finally, a reference to men “of good will”. “Good will” (eudokia) would ordinarily make one think of men’s “good will”, but here it refers to God’s, boundless, “good will” towards men. Hence the Christmas message means that with the birth of Jesus, God has shown his good will towards all.

Let us get back to question “Why did God become man?” St Irenaeus said: “The word became the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of men [. . .]. For the glory of God is a living man—vivens homo—; and the life of man consists in beholding God.” (Adv. Haer. IV, 20, 5.7).

God’s glory manifests itself in the salvation of man whom God loved so much, wrote John the Evangelist, “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life,” (Jn 3, 16). Love is therefore the ultimate reason for Christ’s incarnation. Theologian H.U. von Balthasar’s reflection on the matter is eloquent. He wrote that “God is not, first of all, absolute power, but rather absolute love whose sovereignty does not manifest itself in keeping what is his, but in giving it up” (Mysterium paschale I, 4). The God that we see in the nativity scene is God-Love.

At this point the angels’ announcement sounds to us like an invitation: “Let there be” glory to God in the Highest, “let there be” peace to His people on earth”. The only way to glorify God and build peace on earth lies in humbly and trustingly welcome the gift of Christmas: love. The angels’ song can then become a prayer to repeat often, not only during the Christmas period. A hymn of praise to God in the highest and a fervent invocation of peace on earth that may turn into a concrete commitment to build it with our own life. This is the commitment Christmas gives us.

Monk Tackles Rectory Intruders

Father Noah Casey is a monk of Saint Meinrad's who is currently stationed in Indianapolis at the Catholic Church right across the street from the RCA dome (where the Colts play). Why is someone from Lakeland, FL breaking into a Church in Indy? (I used to live in Lakeland myself--which is why I ask).

From the Examiner:

A Roman Catholic priest tackled a teenage boy he found rummaging through a church rectory Tuesday, foiling a theft attempt, police said. The intruder and another man escaped briefly. But police used a description by the Rev. Noah Casey to track and arrest them.
Casey confronted the intruders about 1:30 a.m. when he found them inside an office at the rectory of St. John's Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis, police said.
"Once the individuals saw the priest, they attempted to get out through the window. One succeeded in doing that, but as the second individual tried to do that, the priest caught him and tackled him," said Marion County Sheriff's Department Capt. Doug Scheffel.
Both escaped, but Casey gave officers their description. A police dog tracked them to a nearby hotel where two men matching the priest's description were found inside a room that was supposed to be vacant, a police report said.
Police said Richard J. Todd, 19, of Lakeland, Fla., and a 16-year-old boy stole computer equipment and cell phones from the church.
Todd was being held in Marion County Jail on preliminary charges of burglary, theft and residential entry, and the boy was being charged as a juvenile.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Greetings from the Pope

Angelus for the Feast of St. Stephen

From The Indian Catholic:
Praying the Angelus December 26th on the Feast of St. Stephen Martyr, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the many Christians who are still suffering persecution in
today’s world and commended them to the care of Mary.
The Pontiff pointed out how the celebration of the Feast of the martyr St. Stephen on the day after Christmas, “can surprise us, because it strikes the contrast between the peace and joy of Bethlehem and the drama of Stephen, stoned to death in Jerusalem in the first persecution against the newly born Church.”The Pope also noted that, “St. Stephen was the first to follow the footsteps of Christ with martyrdom; dying like the Divine Teacher, forgiving and praying for his executioners (cf Acts 7,60).”Moreover, he explained that during the first four centuries of the Church, when all of the Saints were martyrs, “their deaths were not instilled with fear or sadness, but with a spiritual enthusiasm which is always aroused in new Christians.”“For believers, the day of death, and even more so the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything, but the “passing” into immortal life,
it is the day of their final birth, in Latin “dies natalis.”“We can understand
then, the link which exists between the ‘dies natalis’ of Christ and the ‘dies
natalis’ of St. Stephen. If Jesus was not born on earth, mankind would not be
able to be born in heaven. Because Christ is born, we are able to be “reborn!”
exclaimed the Holy Father.In conclusion the Pontiff entrusted to Mary “the many
who are persecuted and suffering, in various ways, for their testimony and
service to the Gospel.”

Friday, December 22, 2006

85 percent of U.S. dioceses report embezzlements

From NCR Cafe:

A whopping 85 percent of U.S. dioceses have detected embezzlement over the past five years, according to Villanova University researchers. “No question
about it, it’s a large number,” said Charles Zech, director of the school’s
Center for the Study of Church Management and coauthor of the 15-page paper,
“Internal Financial Controls in the U.S. Catholic Church,” that details the
findings. Supported by a grant from the Louisville Institute, Zech and Villanova
accounting professor Robert West surveyed 174 diocesan chief financial officers.
Seventy-eight responded.
The researchers don’t put a precise dollar figure on how much was embezzled, but the range indicates it’s significant. In 11 percent of the dioceses at least $500,000 was stolen over the last five years (meaning that a minimum of $4.3 million went missing) while one-third of the dioceses reported thefts of under $50,000. “You can only wonder about those [96] dioceses that didn’t respond to our survey,” said Zech.
Dishonest church employees and volunteers are the immediate cause, but the heart of the problem lies elsewhere, say the researchers.
“Unlike corporations which provide quarterly financial statements to the SEC and hold quarterly conference calls with outside analysts, the church is subject to almost no recurring outside financial scrutiny,” according to the report. Further, while “many dioceses provide parishioners with an annual financial and administrative newsletter,which provides a highly summarized view of the cash flows for the year and the results of social and spiritual programs offered by the diocese -- many other dioceses do neither.”
While external oversight of diocesan and parish finances is virtually nonexistent, internal checks are hardly any better. “Only 3 percent of the dioceses conducted an annual internal audit of their parishes,”while “21 percent of the dioceses indicated that they seldom or never audit their parishes.” When such reviews do occur, the researchers say, it’s frequently because a pastor or bookkeeper has ceased working in the parish.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cardinal Ruini on the Mind of Pope Benedict XVI

I feel a special link to Cardinal Ruini, because when I was in Rome I attended a Mass that he said in the Clementine Chapel one morning that included a priest, three Italian women and me. After the Mass the Cardinal went to the tomb of Pope John Paul II, knelt, prayed with great emotion and openly wept.

Sandro Magister gives a translation of Cardinal Ruini's brilliant talk recently to the priests of Rome on the thought of Pope Benedict.

Pope Warns of Threats to Christmas

From the International Herald Tribune:

"Today many consider God irrelevant. Even believers sometimes seek tempting but illusory shortcuts to happiness. And yet perhaps even because of this confusion humanity seeks a savior, and awaits the coming of Christ," the pope said.

Although he warned against being distracted by what he called the "trappings of Christmas," Benedict offered thanks for the 33-meter (110-foot) Christmas tree set up in St. Peter's Square, and the one in his private apartment in the Vatican, both gifts from the mountains of Calabria in southern Italy.

He also encouraged the custom of setting up nativity scenes in the home.

"It is my hope that such an important element (of Christmas) not only part of our spirituality, but also of our culture and art continue to be a simple and eloquent way of remembering Christ."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another Riveting Appeal from Sophia Press

Help Sophia Press:

As I waited for Mother Angelica to come through the door, I saw that the man standing
next to me had a gun.

It was just fifteen minutes before Mother and I were scheduled to spend an hour together on Mother Angelica Live!

They'd dusted my face with makeup and led me into the cramped corridor that connected Mother's monastery to the EWTN studio. The guard looked me up and down
and then stared right into my face.

"Why do you have a gun here?" I asked.

"These days, you can't be too careful," he said, relaxing his gaze, but resting his hand on his holster.

Indeed, not a hundred yards from where I stood, thugs had twice shot up the walls of Mother's convent, in a failed attempt to drive her and her nuns out of Birmingham. Mother said that one bullet landed so close to her she "could smell the gunpowder."
And she added with a chuckle: "You never saw a crippled nun run so fast in all your life."

In Raymond Arroyo's wonderful biography of Mother Angelica, Mother notes that: "Some people say I'm a woman of great faith. I'm really a coward who keeps moving forward."

To me, that sounds like courage, not cowardice.And it's courage she's shown for eight decades now despite abandonment, lack of education, bullets, bad bishops,
near-bankruptcy, asthma, injuries, operations, pain, scorn, criticism, and the spiritual bleakness that afflicts many of us who labor these days in the vineyard of the Lord.

That evening, it was a delight to be on live TV with Mother Angelica. Her quick wit, her frank comments, and her frequent laughter enlivened my talk about the Catholic books I've published by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Catherine of Genoa, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and other holy men and women.

But she was motherly, too, admonishing her viewers as if they were errant teenagers: "You have to educate your conscience. You have to read and read and read! If you spend fifteen minutes a day reading, your whole life will change. So turn off that TV!"

And then she added mischievously, "Except EWTN, of course!"

During the station break, Mother asked about my work. Hoping to impress her, I said, "I started Sophia Institute Press with $100 and no publishing experience."

"Well how about that!" she responded, unmoved. "I started EWTN with $200 and no broadcasting experience."

Once the cameras were rolling again, Mother said to the audience, "John and I both started with nothing. And we're always asking for funds."

The live audience laughed, but I was embarrassed."That's true," I began slowly, looking at my hands as I sought the right words. "It's unfortunate. I apologize. . . ."

"Oh, don't do that!" Mother shot back loudly. "I don't!"She chortled, and the audience laughed along with her.

The Nativity Story is No Passion of the Christ

Falls to #9 in its third week out. Gibson's Apocalypto falls to #6.

Benedict the Unlikely Pin-up Pope

From the BBC:

Benedict XVI, the shy former disciple of that most media-friendly of popes, John Paul II, has entered an area of the mass communications market that his predecessor apparently never tapped.

The Polish pope could easily have filled out a wall calendar had he wanted to.

Diocese of Monterey has a New Bishop

Monsignor Richard J. Garcia

Why Do Catholics Become Evangelicals?

I would add my comment that once they do and get into the Bible, they usually come back with a better understanding of what Catholicism is about...if the Church could just open the Bible to them in the first place I doubt they would ever leave. More about Jesus, less about the institution that exists to make Christ present.

From Homiletic and Pastoral Review...

An Operative Theology of Exit: Why Catholics Leave
  1. Lack of active participation
  2. Lack of scriptural and theological sophistication
  3. Lack of appropriate and effective Catholic catechesis
  4. Anemic parishes and preaching

Monday, December 18, 2006

Keep the Mass in Christmas!

I begin with an ingenius "smiley" making a reverencial Sign of the Cross...Ever stop to think what you are wishing everyone to have a "Merry" of..? Not the Espanol "Feliz Navidad"...essentially "Happy Birthday" but rather a joyful Christ mass. What is the Mass?

There are those who think they cut Christ out of the picture by replacing Christ with an "X"...but the first letter of Christ in Greek is "X" and even when you say are still left with the Mass and what is the Mass?

Then there is the Christmas story, especially as it is found in the Gospel of Luke.

The Gospel of Luke begins and ends with a "vision of angels." First there is the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary. When Mary later visits Zechariah and Elizabeth she proclaims that God "has shown the might of his arm dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty,"(Luke 1:51-53) Zechariah at the birth of John prophesies "by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Luke 1:78,79).

There is a common theme hinted at in both of these canticles, the lowly understand a message that those in power totally miss, hunger is filled, and those who sit in darkness are given light. These precede another vision of angels; in Luke 2: 8 immediately following the birth of Jesus we read about shepherds keeping "night watch" over their flocks, the shepherds are literally a people "sitting in darkness" who have an experience of light: "the glory of the lord shone around them.".

What is the message given to the shepherds? " "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2: 10-12).

We may be overly familiar with this Christmas story to notice what it might be telling us. What exactly is a sign? It is not an end in and of itself but rather points to a greater reality. What is the sign the shepherds are told they will witness? They are told that they will find an "infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." A manger is a feeding box for animals. We are told that it is a "sign", what they witness points to something beyond the experience of the birth of Christ to something else.

When the angels leave, the shepherds say, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." The key phrase here is "Bethlehem" which literally means "house of bread". "Let us go to the House of Bread to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

All of this is how the Gospel of Luke begins, but how does it end? Here the Risen Christ has joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They do not recognize him and here they tell him about a "vision of angels" that the women who came to the tomb have reported to them. In response to this He opens the Scriptures to them. They invite Him to stay with them. He takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, gives it to them, then physically vanishes from their site. Luke tells us quite blatantly, for the really dense reader, that they recognized Him in the "breaking of the bread".

Where are we to find Jesus this day? In the bread that is broken in the Eucharist! So at Mass we sing the Gloria, the message of the angels. It is both a reminder and an invitation for us to encounter the Lord here.

I have good news for you! This Christ Mass you too can get up and see what the Lord has made known to us--He is waiting for you.

I recommend also two books that I've written as the perfect Christ Mass gift to give, to remind and to inspire what we wish everyone to have a Merry one.

My How-To Book of the Mass for those who want to understand the Mass better and How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist for those who understand but our bothered by the way they actually experience the Mass in their parish. Both will help you and your loved ones trek that trial of the shepherds this Christ-Mass.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Joy of Christmas Directed at the Poor

Pope Benedict's Angelus message for today:

The proclamation of the joy of Christmas, of the coming of the Lord, is directed especially at the “lame of the earth”: those who suffer because they face the tragedy of war, in the Middle East or some places in Africa, or because they are stricken by sickness or solitude, or because, like many of today’s young people, they do not know the true meaning of joy for they have lost themselves in an exaggerated quest for the mirages of consumerism, for moments of intoxication and all forms of alienation. On this day when the liturgy makes a call to joy of the spirit, Benedict XVI urged the faithful to reflect on the true meaning of joy, found not in the myths of our time but in the proclamation of salvation contained in the word of God. The pope remembered especially Iraqi refugees in Syria, “forced to leave their country because of the tragic situation they are experiencing” and he made an appeal on their behalf to “individuals, international organizations and governments” to commit themselves still more “to meet their most urgent needs”.

Today there were many children in the crowd of 40,000 people who took part in the recital of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, where a Christmas tree has been installed and a crib is being prepared. As per Roman tradition, the children brought ‘baby Jesus’ with them, that is, statuettes of the Child Jesus to place in cribs in parishes, schools and homes, to be blessed by the pope. They noisily welcomed Benedict XVI and responded heartily to his greeting after the Marian prayer. The pope said the call to joy in the antiphon of today’s liturgy, which echoes an exhortation of the apostle Paul, “Gaudete in Domino”, is not directed only at Christians: “It is a prophetic announcement for all humanity, especially for the poorest, in this case, those who are most deprived of joy! Just think about our brothers and sisters who, especially in the Middle East, in some places in Africa and the rest of the world, are experiencing the tragedy of war: how could they experience joy? What will their Christmas be like? Think about sick people and those who are alone, whose soul is tested apart from their physical trials, because they not infrequently feel abandoned: how to share joy with them, without being disrespectful of their pain? But let us think also of those – especially youth – who have lost the meaning of true joy and who vainly search for it in places where it is impossible to find: in an exaggerated quest for self-affirmation and success, in false entertainment, consumerism, moments of intoxication, artificial paradises of drugs and all forms of alienation. We cannot but contrast today’s liturgy of ‘Rejoice!’ with these tragic realities. As in the times of the prophet Zephaniah, the Word of the Lord addresses in a special way those who are undergoing trials, the ‘lame of the earth and orphans of joy’. The invitation to joy is not an alienating message or a sterile palliative; on the contrary, it is a prophecy of salvation, an appeal to redemption that starts with internal renewal.”

The pope continued: “To transform the world, God chose a humble maiden from a village in Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and greeted her thus: ‘Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.’ The secret of an authentic Christmas lies in these words. God repeats them to the Church, to each one of us: Rejoice, the Lord is near! With the help of Mary, let we offer ourselves with humility and courage so the world may welcome Christ, who is the source of true joy.”

After reciting the Angelus, while greeting the children and youth of Rome, he said: “I bless from my heart all the ‘Baby Jesus’ statues. Dear children, before the crib, pray to Jesus for the intentions of the pope as well! I thank you and wish you a happy Christmas!”

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Prayers and Donations Needed

Johnnette Benkovic's husband Anthony's health has taken a dramatic turn fort he worst. They have been praying for the intercession of Fulton Sheen. Please take a moment, stop and add your own prayer for his healing. Also say a prayer for Johnette and her family as they care for Anthony.

In the same letter that I learned of Anthony's worsening condition, Johnnette alerts us to the fact that the ministry that she founded is in dire straits financially and could use help immediately. Given that many of you are looking for good causes to donate at this time of the year, please consider her ministry which strives to spread the Gospel message. You can donate here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Lady of Guadalupe

From the Comments

One comment caught my eye, because I have already written a book that deals specifically with answering this question:

If parish life is the center of Catholic spirituality and you are not supposed to "shop around" every week for the mass you like (and if you live in a diocese where your parish is predetermined by geography) how do you deal with a really unorthodox, or maybe just unappealing parish? For example, it may not be unorthodox to kneel, but what if standing feels wrong to you? What if the music is "new-agey"?

The book:

Ecclesia Dei Meeting Today

to discuss liberalization of Tridentine liturgy...from Rorate Caeli

Monday, December 11, 2006

How White Was My Savior?

(Exhibit One to the right...)
A non-story in Newsweek:

The mainstreaming of a white Jesus began in earnest during the early Middle Ages in Europe, a time and place where darkness had a powerfully negative connotation. Eighth and ninth century European theologians, obsessed with the symbolism of the Passion, began ascribing blame to the Jews. As such, Judas and King Herod and eventually Pontius Pilate came to be represented in dark, sinister hues while Jesus became increasingly white. “The oldest basis of all Christian art is the clash of good versus evil, light versus dark,” said Colum Hourihane, director of the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University. “This was particularly the case in the ninth and tenth centuries, when basically the Jews assumed a dark coloration [in art] while Christ became radiantly white, illuminated.” This whiteness naturally extended to such secondary characters as Mary and Joseph and the disciples.

A Christmas Favorite

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Quoted in Other Places

It is always strange to see myself quoted, and in this case the quote relates to the thought of Father Alexander Schmemann of whom I have great admiration for...he pointed out that when humanity was in paradise it was the devil who began posing problems to the first man and woman. Thus in the redemption of humanity--we are to live in praise and thanksgiving and hence this quote from How To Get The Most Out Of The Eucharist found on She's A Crafty Pumpkin:

If we want to adore God with praise and thanksgiving we are going to have to learn to stop seeing everything as a "problem" or "interruption" and begin to be open to seeing God's goodness and interventions even in the most unlikely of places.
- from How To Get The Most Out Of The Eucharist, by Michael Dubruiel

To read the master, himself: The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983

Bring Christ to the Public Realm

Pope Benedict, from Fox News:

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday encouraged the display of religious symbols in public buildings including schools, courthouses, hospitals and prisons, saying that God needs to be present in community life.

The pontiff, in a speech to participants of a national convention organized by the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists, said that at its origin, "lay status" referred merely to a person of Christian faith who was not a member of the clergy or a part of the religious state.

However, in modern times it has come to mean the opposite, Benedict said.

Nowadays, "a lay status entails the exclusion of religious symbols from public places," Benedict said. "The basis of such a concept is an a-religious vision of life, of thought and of morality; that is a vision where there is no room for God, for a mystery that transcends pure reason, for a moral law that has an absolute value."

"It is the job then, of all believers ... to help elaborate a concept of laicism that on the one hand gives God and His moral laws, Christ and His church the place it deserves in life ... and on the other affirms and respects the legitimate autonomy of terrestrial realities," the pope said

Fr. Groeschel's Latest Book

A few questions asked in the bleg below are actually answered in Father Groeschel's latest book that was just published a few months ago The Virtue Driven Life...a great read--obviously about the virtues, but likely unlike any book about the virtues you've ever read before. Very entertaining read, Father has a way of approaching the virtues that is refreshing. It would make a great Christmas gift!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Questons About the Spiritual LIfe

I'm working on a new book that will be written by Father Benedict Groeschel--where he will answer questions about the Spiritual life, covering such topics as:

  • What is the spiritual life?
  • You mean the spiritual life isn't just something monks and nuns worry about?
  • You mean the Mass and Sacraments are supposed to help me grow in the spiritual life?
  • Is there a patern of growth in the spiritual life similar to the patern of growth we find in the physical life, i.e. infancy, childhood, adolesence, adulthood,etc.?
  • How should I live out my life if I'm growing spiritually?

I'd like to develop a good series of questions that people have out there (and this means you, whoever you are reading this). Please either send me your questions about the spiritual life or leave them in the comments here. Also leave your name and where you live (, state) and if I use your question, we'll put you in the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

Update: 12/10: Keep the questions coming, they are good and very helpful--they'll make the book really, really useful to thousands of people... here is another area that I'd like to add based on the questions I've received already:
  • Obstacles to growing in the Spiritual Life

Friday, December 8, 2006

"God was attracted to Mary's humility"

Pope Benedict's Angelus for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, summarized by Asia News Italy:

The pope said: “Not only did Mary not commit any sin, she was also protected from the common legacy of mankind that is original sin. And this because of the mission for which she was always destined by God: to be the Mother of the Redeemer. All this is contained in the truth of faith of the ‘Immaculate Conception’. The biblical foundation of this dogma is found in the words that the Angel spoke to the maiden of Nazareth: ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ (Lk 1:28). ‘Full of grace’ – in the original Greek kecharitom√©ne – is the most beautiful name of Mary, the one that God Himself gave her, to indicate that she has always been and will always be the beloved, elected, the one chosen to welcome the most precious gift, Jesus, ‘love incarnate of God’ (Enc. Deus Caritas East, 12).”

The privilege of Mary, of being protected from evil, has always prompted discussion among theologians and made the secularized world smile. Benedict XVI asked: “Why did God choose Mary of Nazareth of all women?” The answer of the pope goes back to the Bible, but also to poetry, citing Dante Alighieri who in his “Paradise” dedicated to the Virgin one of the most beautiful hymns of world literature: “The answer is hidden in the unfathomable mystery of divine will. However there is the reason highlighted by the Gospel: her humility. Dante Alighieri put it well in the last canto of Paradise: ‘Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son/ Humble and high beyond all other creature/The limit fixed of eternal counsel’ (Par. XXXIII, 1-3). The Virgin herself, in the ‘Magnificat’, her canticle of praise, says: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord... for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.’ (Lk 1:46,48). Yes, God was attracted by the humility of Mary, who found favour in his eyes (cfr Lk 1:30). And thus she became the Mother of God, image and model of the Church, elected from among all peoples to receive the blessing of the Lord and to spread it across the entire human family. This ‘blessing’ is none other than Jesus Christ himself. He is the Source of grace, with which Mary was filled right from the first moment of her existence. She welcomed Jesus with faith and with love she gave him to the world. This is also our vocation and our mission, the vocation and mission of the Church: welcoming Christ in our life and giving him to the world, ‘that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn 3:17).”

The pope recalled that Mary is a model for all Christians who in Advent await Christ with the same humility and dedication as the Mother of God did: “Dear brothers and sisters, today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception illuminates the period of Advent like a lighthouse, a time of vigilant and faithful anticipation of the Saviour. As we prepare to greet God who is coming, we look to Mary who ‘shines as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth’ (Lumen gentium, 68). With this knowledge, I invite you to join me when, this afternoon, I will renew the traditional act of homage in Piazza di Spagna [Spanish steps] to this sweet Mother for grace and of grace.”

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pat Summerall Visits His Hometown

Of Lake City, Florida...nice piece about his liver transplant

From the Gainesville Sun:

Pat walks on an artificial knee. A recovering alcoholic, he's into a 15th year without a drink. Pat's liver became diseased, so in 2004 one of the best-liked sportscasters ever needed a transplant. With those unmistakable pipes, Summerall speaks of the experience with high humility and deep appreciation.

"My new liver came from a 13-year-old African-American boy," Pat said. "A young man from Pine Bluff, Ark., who suffered an aneurism in phys ed class. I later met his mother and it was hugely emotional for both of us.

"She hugged me real tight, saying 'I feel as though I am holding part of my child,' What a powerful, heart-tugging feeling; knowing somebody had to die far too young for an old guy to keep on breathing."""

Nelson Tightens Editorial Standards for Authors

From Publisher's Weekly Religion Bookline:

While the company will honor all existing contracts with previously
acquired authors, future contracts will require authors—even those writing in
non-religion categories like business—to signal their agreement with both the
Nicene Creed (recognized by most Protestant and Catholic, and some Orthodox,
Christians) and Philippians 4:8 from the New Testament.


Nelson's decision is not just about belief, but about the bottom line. Hyatt noted that as part of the company's preparation for this decision, it evaluated the marketplace success of recent Nelson titles that would have either passed or failed the new editorial standards. "In that study, we discovered that projects that didn't meet up to our new standards accounted for only 2% of our total 12-month revenue," he said. "Worse, titles that would not have met our standards sold, on average, 47% fewer copies than titles that met our standards."

Hyatt asserts that even with the heightened theological filter, no topic will be unpublishable for Nelson's authors. "We want to encourage them to write across a broad spectrum of categories," he said. "Some books will be explicitly Christian; some implicitly Christian. But all will be written from a broad Christian perspective. That's the unique contribution we feel called to make."

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Pope: In mosque I prayed to the one God for all mankind

From Asia News Italy:

The prayer in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque was “not initially planned but it
turned out to be very meaningful”. It was a prayer to the “one Lord of heaven
and earth, merciful father of all mankind”. Addressing today’s general audience,
this was how Benedict XVI described his silent prayer on 30 November in
The Pope “thanked divine Providence for this” and said: “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood.”
The Pontiff augured that Turkey “will be a bridge of friendship and collaboration between East and West” and he thanked the Turkish people “for the cordiality and sympathy” they showed him throughout his stay, when “he felt loved and understood”.
For Benedict XVI, in secular Turkey, “the distinction between civil and religious spheres constitutes a principle and the State should guarantee effective religious freedom.” At the same time, he continued, “Christians and Muslims should collaborate together on issues like justice, peace and life.”
The Pope then prayed to God, so that He may “help the Turkish people, their rulers and representatives of different religions to build a future of peace together” and so that He may “make this apostolic journey fruitful and animate across the world the Church’s mission to announce to all nations the Gospel of truth, peace and love.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, dwelt on the same subject during a speech delivered after last Sunday’s function. He said: “We are sure that the voyage of the Holy Father to the Ecumenical Patriarchate will bear fruits for dialogue between Christian churches, especially between the Catholic and Orthodox
Churches, and more generally to inter-religious dialogue. This real improvement
in our ties will contribute to peace on our planet.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, he added, “has long been an initiator and promoter of dialogue between religions and civilizations: it sees with great satisfaction the desire for improvement in interpersonal relations worldwide.”

The Real St. Nick

The Real Saint Nick Fought Prostitution

and the beautiful site

Saint Nicholas: The Truth About Santa Clause

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Culture Wars and Christmas

From Father Benedict Groeschel:

As most of you know, on my recent program on EWTN, I made an appeal along with Bill Donohue of The Catholic League to get people to identify stores and other merchants and agencies that refuse to acknowledge Christmas. I have to say we’ve been extremely successful. One lady who attends our conferences in Manhattan got a hundred of her friends to cut up their credit cards to Macy’s and send them back, so Macy’s, I understand, is even playing Christmas carols when you call in on the phone. As they said in the Second World War, “sub sighted, sank same”. I understand also that various other big companies are changing the anti-Christmas policy.

If you happen to know any companies or merchants that are telling you that their employees can’t say “Merry Christmas” or not carrying Christmas items, or others that are outlawing Christmas, be sure to report them to the Catholic League website. We are preparing to identify people as “Grinches of the Year”.

This is really not a light-hearted attempt. Ninety-seven percent of the people in the United States think that the celebration of Christmas is appropriate; eighty-five percent consider themselves Christian in some way or another. Why can’t we have some recognition of our holiday?

If anybody says to you “Happy Holidays”, say back “Merry Christmas”. If the person is not a Christian, you can say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”, but don’t leave Christmas out. A kind of funny detail came through: one of the big chains of stores now has their phone message on, and in a slightly different voice, which has obviously been tacked on, and they say “Merry Christmas.” Keep plugging and who knows, we may even keep this a basically Christian country. God bless.

Othodox Priest and Family Perish in Russian Fire

That looks to be a case of arson...

From The Raw Story:

The religious website Orthodoxy and Peace reported arsonists blocked the
door to the family's home with a steel pipe to prevent the family from escaping.
The home's windows had been barred by Nikolayev himself after a recent arson

Russia's Interior Ministry on Monday said it had formed and deployed an
investigative squad to the village.

Monday, December 4, 2006

What Book is Endorsed by...

Tom Monaghan, Gerry Faust and Dick Vitale?

Find out here

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor Against "Christophopia"

I like the term and plan to start using it...Fulton Sheen called it Staurophobia "Fear of the Cross"...but the reality is that it really is Christophobia "Fear of a Savior"

From Diocese of Westminster:

I am becoming tired of the mockery of those who seem to regard faith communities, especially Christian ones, as intrusive and contrary to the common good. I label them Christophobic. They wish to close off every voice and contribution other than their own. Their inability to see the Christian seed in what is noble and good in Western culture chills the possibility of a true pluralism. Sometimes it spills over into the kind of anti-Christian bigotry that has appeared on some university campuses.

The great majority of people in our country do not want the erosion of a culture that is ultimately rooted in Christianity and its values. The presence in Britain of Muslims and other faith communities is leading to a renewed interest in Christian identity, boiled down if you like to the simple proposition that if a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf, a Christian woman should be able to wear a cross.

What is lacking in the new secular aggressiveness is the very Christian virtue of doubt. Only secularists such as Professor Dawkins seem to have no doubt when it comes to faith. We cannot build a truly human society on such narrow and rigid foundations.

Religion is not safe or easy. The new presence in Britainof an angry expression of Islam is a challenge; but the right response is not an angry dismissal of faith. We will not bring about a society at greater ease with itself by attempting to declare faith-free zones. British society is not a secular fortress needing to repel boarders, but a society permeated by belief as well as non-belief. The public space must be broad and permeable if it is to be truly public.

On my entry into seminary 56 years ago, my parish priest advised me to “Pray for perseverance”. I thought it rather unimaginative counsel at the time; now it seems to me quite inspired. For believers, the real task is to witness to God’s presence by lives of love and service, patiently persisting with those we disagree with.

Don't Think Gators Have a Chance?

On November 4th I was walking on 2nd Avenue in Nashville, TN. Why was I there? I had watched Florida play Vanderbilt earlier in that day in a game where Florida built a big lead (scored 25 points...the same amount of points that Michigan scored against Vanderbilt by the way) and then held on as Vanderbilt made a game of it. I stopped in front of an establishment where there was a crowd gathered. What were they doing? They were watching Illinois mount a charge, a last ditch effort to tie the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes. They failed, but the final score 17-10 should give everyone pause...if lowly and much maligned Ron Zook could almost do it...there is hope that Urban Meyer can watch that tape and come away with something.

I hate the BCS, by the way. It has ruined college football. Let's turn all these bowl games into playoff games (at the same sights) and make it all worth watching and caring about and in the end as in college basketball the rankings will mean nothing.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Interesting Experience of Turkish Journalist with the Pope

From The Journal of Turkish Weekly by Selma SEVKLI:

In time of Islamophobia, “clash of civilizations” and urgent need for dialogue after all, Pope’s visit to Turkey was critical both for Turkey and the rest of the world. Although I rose quite prejudice against Pope Benedict XVI after his speech at Regensburg University in Germany, I still wanted to see him and think about my opinions one more time.

As I worked for intercultural dialogue activities last year, I got to know many officials from religious minority communities. Therefore, I had the chance to attend the ceremony at Greek Orthodox Patriarchate on 29 November 2006. From beginning to the end, it was a lifetime experience for me.

We left Harbiye around 5.30 pm to go to the Patriarchate and realized that all the roads were closed. The police officers suggested us to take a different route which would make us delay even more. First their explanation was that the roads were closed for the Pope, we explained: “We are going to attend his ceremony” Surprisingly, showing our invitation letter was more than enough to open all the closed roads. We could have easily got the answer “Who cares, everybody is going somewhere important” All police officers I saw that night were extra careful and polite. Let me offer my thanks one more time as they completed their duty just perfectly.

The security was very tight around the patriarchate, we had to park 400 meters away, wait in lines, got searched. All these procedure got some of the people frustrated, for me just made the whole event more exciting. When we arrived in the yard, I saw 20 priests in line, with a long red carpet in front of them. There was a big screen monitor screening inside the church, welcoming signs on the walls and many people from different parts of the world. After waiting about 30 minutes Patriarch Bartholomew came in, welcomed everybody and soon after the Pope walked in. Bells ringed, cameras started shooting and the couple went into the church. Some rituals took place such as kissing the Testament, greeting the priests and the unique mass started. I walked in different levels of the church and looked at excited people, took pictures and videos. When the ceremony ended, most of the people left the patriarchate, but some started waiting in front of another building in the yard. I was told that there was another ceremony upstairs for priests only, closed to press and public. We chatted and waited outside the building, then famous Turkish journalist Leyla Umar and Patriarch Bartholomew’s lawyer Kezban Hatemi insisted to the officials about going in and meeting the Pope. As they are known for their close relationship to the Patriarch, their request was accepted and eight of us got the chance to get in.

The scene in the room was quite interesting. Priests were kissing the Pope and getting some holy gifts that I couldn’t exactly understand what. During that time, I was recording and just standing in front of the famous couple of the night. Then they started walking and the Pope got closer to me. I got confused about what to do, just looked at him and he gave his hand to me. I thought it would be disrespectful just to shake his hand as everybody was kissing, so I did the same with only one tiny different detail: After kissing his hand, I put it on my forehead as practiced in Turkish tradition. He smiled and I couldn’t say anything, but took my camera out and took another shot from a close distance. Then I had this weird feeling to describe as he left the room. I don’t know if he blessed or cursed, but it was a lifetime experience.

I left the Patriarchate in peace. I don’t know if the Pope is sincere about dialogue but to me it was de facto apologize about his statements while considered his whole trip. People were afraid about him praying in St. Sophia, he didn’t. Instead, he prayed towards Kaba in Blue Mosque. He tried to talk in Turkish, met many Turkish officials (even though his primary reason to visit Patriarch Bartholomoew), and in the end he said that he left his heart in turkey.

I believe that it is hard to change mentalities but reasonable to switch strategies. But it would be unfair to judge the Pope at the moment. We will see and learn through time what has changed in Vatican and if sincere dialogue is possible.

More Praise for Pope's Trip to Turkey

In a world starving for intelligent leadership--it sure is nice (and has been over the past 27 years) to have someone at the top of the Church who is both intelligent and a leader--not a follower.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"He came here with a lot of baggage, and I didn't know whether he would be able to overcome that," said Binnaz Toprak, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bogazici University.

"But in the end the pope presented himself not only as a religious leader but also a diplomat," Toprak said. "The Turkish public will be pleased that we made a nice show of Islamic tolerance and Turkish hospitality, and [the pope] gave an image to the world that he is in favor of dialogue."

The pope's effort to repair relations with the Islamic world was the focus of most of the media interest, but the trip to Turkey was originally conceived as an instrument for re-energizing the dialogue with Eastern Orthodox churches. Begun during the papacy of Pope Paul VI in the 1960s, this is seen by the Vatican as a long-term project to resolve a very old problem.

The split between the two ancient branches of Christianity, the Great Schism, occurred in 1054 after years of disputes. Over the centuries, culture and geography have widened the rift.

Not about theology'

"The divide between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy is not about theology. The differences are coming from historical memories, and you can't overcome those by sitting down at a table and talking," Wauck said. "You have to build a different set of historical memories, and this has to be done over a long period of time."

Pope Benedict, in one of last week's meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew, called the divisions among Christians a "scandal to the world"--the Vatican's strongest words yet on the subject--and pledged to work toward full reconciliation.

The pope and the patriarch were together for at least a few hours on three of the four days the pope spent in Turkey. They embraced, they celebrated the liturgy together and they embraced some more, all part of the process of building a new set of historical memories.

And in the process, a different side of a shy and sometimes stern German pontiff was revealed.

Noting Pope Benedict's prolific literary output, his love of language and his "carefully crafted Teutonic paragraphs," John Allen, the Vatican specialist for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote that the Turkey pilgrimage could "mark the moment the wordsmith pope learned to talk in pictures."

Friday, December 1, 2006

Pope Returns to Rome

The defining moment? In the Blue Mosque at prayer...

Pope's Plea: Freedom for the Church in Turkey

From Asia News Italy:

Another call for freedom for the Church which accompanies Muslims and an exhortation to Turkey’s small Christian communities to live together in love. This was the final message of the Pope’s visit, delivered this morning to around 2,000 people who participated in mass celebrated by Benedict XVI in Istanbul, his last engagement before leaving for Rome.

Young people stood in the small courtyard of the nineteenth-century church of the Holy Spirit, the Latin cathedral of Istanbul, cheering at the arrival of the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew, chanting their names. On one wall, there was a poster with their images. There, upon his arrival, the Pope freed three white doves and then blessed a statue of John XXIII, the “Turkish Pope”, as Pope Roncalli was described when he was elected, in memory of the 10 years he spent in this country where he is still remembered with respect and affection. The statue, intended for the Church of St Anthony, stood not far from that of Benedict XV, erected by the Turks in 1919 in memory of his appeals against the World War, with the inscription: “To the great pontiff of the global tragedy, benefactor of all peoples, regardless of nation or creed, as a sign of gratitude, the East.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II, and the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan Fuluksinos Yusuf Cetin, attended the religious rite; all met Benedict XVI yesterday. The meeting with Bartholomew, who entered the church by the Pope’s side – and who participated in three celebrations with Benedict XVI in two days – was the main reason for the voyage. This, however, did not stop public opinion from focusing above all on ties with Islam.

Benedict XVI dwelt upon these ties in the packed church. He said: “Your communities walk the humble path of daily companionship with those who do not share our faith, but who declare ‘to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God’ (Lumen Gentium, n.16). You know well that the church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom to reveal He who she cannot hide.”

The celebration had an inter-ritual character, in that Catholic communities of different languages and rites took part. Monks with cowls and Metropolitans in their great mantles stood by the altar. For all of them, there was a papal exhortation to fraternity, which rounded up the homily: “Always be open to the spirit of Christ and hence be attentive to those who thirst for justice, peace, dignity, for consideration for themselves and for their brothers. Live among yourselves according to the word of the Lord: ‘by these they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another’.”