Monday, May 5, 2008

Joseph Dubruiel

Pope Benedict reflects on the power of the rosary. Hat tip to Father Mark, from the Papa Ratzinger Forum:
Today, we confirm together that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice relegated to the past, nor a prayer from other times which we only think about with nostalgia. The Rosary is, in fact, undergoing a new spring almost. This is undoubtedly one of the most eloquent signs of the love that the new generations feel for Jesus and for Mary his mother.

In the present world that is so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ in the center, as the Virgin did, who meditated in her heart on all that was said about her Son, and on all that he said and did.

In reciting the Rosary, one relives the important and significant moments in the story of salvation - we retrace the various stages of the mission of Christ.

With Mary, our hearts are oriented towards the mystery of Jesus, Christ is placed at the center of our lives, of our time, of our cities, through meditating on the holy mysteries of joy and light and sorrow and glory in his life...

...The Rosary, when prayed in an authentic way, one that is not mechanical and superficial, but profound, undeniably confers peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and with love at the center of each Ave Maria."
Two excellent rosary aids, one written by Amy and myself--the other by Father Dwight Longenecker:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pope Benedict on the Ascension of the Lord

From today's Regina Caeli address, before over 100,000 people, as recounted in Asia News Italy:
Before the Regina Caeli, the pontiff emphasised the value of today's feast, the Ascension of Christ to heaven and his "return to the Father" with his and our humanity. "He", the pope explains, "in fact came to the world to bring men back to God, not on the level of ideas - like a philosopher or master of wisdom - but really, as a shepherd who wants to lead his sheep back to the fold . . . It is for us that he came down from Heaven, and it is for us that he ascended there after making himself like men in all things, humiliated to the point of death on the cross, and after touching the abyss of the greatest separation from God".

"God in man - man in God" are "not a theoretical truth, but a real one", an anchor for the life of all men. "And what does man need more in every age if not this: a solid anchoring for his existence?".

"After the Ascension", the pope further recalled, "the first disciples remained gathered together in the Cenacle around the Mother of Jesus, in fervent expectation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14)". From this arises the invitation "to remain united together in prayer, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, only to those who 'are born again from above', meaning from the Holy Spirit, is opened the entrance to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn. 3:3-5), and the first one 'born again from above' is precisely the Virgin Mary".

Time Magazine: Is Liberal Catholicism Dead?

Reminicent of Saint John Bosco's dream, the magazine reflects on what Pope Benedict XVI's papacy means to the Church, albeit from only one side--it would have been good to hear some voices from the young and upcoming, rather than from the graying, from Time:
To some extent, liberal Catholicism has been a victim of its own success. Its positions on sex and gender issues have become commonplace in the American Church, diminishing the distinctiveness of the progressives. More importantly, they failed to transform the main body of the Church: John Paul II, a charismatic conservative, enjoyed the third-longest papacy in church history, and refused to budge on the left's demands; instead, he eventually swept away liberal bishops. The heads at Call to Action grayed, and by the late 1990s, Vatican II progressivism began to look like a self-limited Boomer moment.

Then, the movement received a monstrous reprieve. The priest sex abuse scandal implicated not only the predators, but the superiors who shielded them. John Paul remained mostly silent. A new reform group, Voice of the Faithful, arose; the old anger returned, crystallizing around the battle-cry "They just don't get it."

Benedict's visit, however, changed the dynamic. And that's a problem for progressives. Says Fr. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center whom Benedict famously removed from his previous job as editor of America, "Reform movements need an enemy to organize against. As most bishops have gotten their acts together on sex abuse, they have looked less like the enemy and more like part of the solution. Enthusiasm for reform declined. With the Pope's forthright response, it will decline even more."

Not everyone agrees. Says Voice of the Faithful spokesman John Moynihan, "That's funny; I just came from a meeting of COR (Catholic Organizations for Reform), and there were a lot of people very buoyed up. We can now say to people, 'We have made a difference, and if you stick with us we are going to make a further difference'." Adds Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, now a director of Fordham's Religion and Culture Center, "I think there is continuity in terms of the issues and the questions about whether Church structures can be altered." He notes that a social justice group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, formed just three years ago.

But the familiar progressives-versus-Vatican paradigm seems almost certain to be undone by a looming demographic tsunami. Almost everyone agrees that the "millennial generation," born in 1980 or later, while sharing liberal views on many issues, has no desire to mount the barricades. Notes Reese, "Younger Catholics don't argue with the bishops; they simply do what they want or shop for another church." And Hispanic Catholics, who may be the U.S. majority by 2020, don't see this as their battle. "I'm sure they�re happy that the celebration of the Eucharist is in the vernacular," says Tilley, "but they don't have significant issues connected to Vatican II."

And so, unless Benedict contradicts in Rome what he said in New York, the Church may have reached a tipping point. This is not to say that the (over-hyped) young Catholic Right will swing into lay dominance. Nor will liberal single-issue groups simply evaporate. But if they cohere again, it will be around different defining issues. "It's a new ball game," admits Steinfels. As Tilley wrote recently in Commonweal regarding his fellow theologians, "A new generation has neither the baggage nor the ballast of mine. Theirs is the future. Let's hope they remember the Council as the most important event in twentieth-century Catholicism."

The Real Power of Evil

"I decided I did not want to get involved."

It seems that many knew of the crimes of Joseph Fritzl, but remained silent. This is an oft told story when it comes to abuse and it merits a deep meditation on evil and how if we do not confont it, we become silent accomplices--corporate sin, think about that when you recite the Confiteor..."in what I have failed to do." From The Sydney Morning Herald:

EVIDENCE of how a wall of silence hid the crimes of Joseph Fritzl is
mounting as it was revealed that his abuse of his daughter Elisabeth as a
teenager was an open secret among people who knew the family.
Former lodgers
at the family house and school friends of Elisabeth admitted on Saturday that
they heard she was being sexually abused and mistreated, yet none contacted
authorities before or after she disappeared.
Joseph Leitner, a former lodger,
said that shortly after he moved in, he learnt that she had been repeatedly
raped by her father.
"I had a good friend from school who was really close to
Elisabeth," said Mr Leitner, who lived at the house in the small Austrian town
of Amstetten between 1990 and 1994. - "She confided in me, and told me what a
monster Josef was - and what he had done to Elisabeth.
"But I decided I did
not want to get involved. I did not want to get kicked out of the flat, I did
not want to lose it. I kept myself to myself."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

In Stock Again

After selling out as soon as it was released, Amazon's Kindle is finally back in stock:

City Repents in Sackcloth (burlap) and Ashes

Birmingham, Alabama--last Friday, from FoxNews:
Struggling to confront a worsening homicide rate, the mayor of Birmingham asked pastors and citizens Friday to don burlap sacks and ashes Friday in an Old Testament-style sign of biblical repentance.

Mayor Larry Langford said his "sackcloth and ashes" rally at Boutwell Auditorium was inspired by the Book of Jonah, where residents of the ancient city of Ninevah wore rough fabric and ashes as a sign of turning away from sin.

A pastor who helped organize the rally said Langford purchased 2,000 burlap bags that will be handed out at the event.

"We believe things begin to dramatically change when the mayor, or leader, calls for prayer. I don't think there's ever been a city called to sackcloth and ashes," Green said.

Since he took office last year, Langford has held three prayer rallies as a way of addressing crime and violence. Bibles were handed out at one of the events.

"This city needs to humble itself," said Langford, a professing Christian.

So far this year 27 people have been killed in Birmingham, compared to 19 at the same time last year.

Which of course has raised the ire of some as witnessed in this piece entitled Sackcloth and Asses:
At any rate, the Birmingham prayer rally has serious goals. The News reports that Langford admonished the pastors surrounding him and others not to attend the rally for spectacle, but for a religious experience.

“Do not come looking pretty,” he said. “If you’re too cute to put a little ash on your hands, stay home. If you’re too cute to pray, stay home.”

I’ve got a better idea. Langford should stay home, and he should read the Constitution of the United States. Government officials have no authority to meddle in religion, and he should repent of his unconstitutional activities.

Changes in Papal Media Coverage

An excellent overview by Dale O'Leary in The Pilot:

As I followed the pastoral visit of the Holy Father on television, switching between EWTN and FoxNews, I could not help but contemplate how far we have come. I remember the coverage of the visits to the United States of John Paul the Great in 1979 and 1987. Then the coverage focused on dissenters. The commentators wanted to know when the Church would change its teachings of life, sexuality, marriage and women. When would the Church come into the modern age and cease to cling to ideas that everyone knew were outdated? To the media it was clear, the Church was not attracting new vocations to the priesthood and religious life; it was not engaging the younger generation and if the Church didn’t come around quickly it would soon sink into irrelevance. The dissenters assured us change would come; it was only a matter of time.

By John Paul’s third visit in 1995, the critics recognized that things would not change under his pontificate, but they still held out the hope that he was a passing phenomenon. He was ill. His death was expected and then there would be a new pope who would bring the Church into the 20th century. By 1995, the pundits grudgingly admitted that John Paul had achieved rock star status, he had stopped the decline of vocations and he had attracted the young, but they consoled themselves with the belief that his successor would not be able to match his appeal. The critics were, however, less confident than they had been.

Then the scandal hit and the pundits were sure that this would be the nail in the coffin. Surely, now the Church would at least give up on celibacy, let priests marry, ordain women. The scandal caused terrible harm. Many good souls found their faith tested and some left.

But here we are in 2008 and here is Benedict XVI. This shy, humble scholar is getting the same enthusiastic welcome as his predecessor. We saw stadiums full of young people, young women religious in full habit reaching out to touch his hand, and young priests and seminarians distributing Communion to thousands. One commentator noted that the College of Cardinals seemed to be a better system for picking a leader than our electoral process.

Of course, there are still dissenters, but rather than being lauded, they are the ones who are marginalized. An anti-Catholic comic who slandered the Holy Father was forced to offer an apology. The mainstream media seems to have accepted the fact that the Catholic Church is not going to “modernize.” And why should it? The religious denominations that have bent over backwards to accommodate 20th century sensibilities have found their congregations shrinking, their influence waning. Some are being torn apart in a battle between the modernizers and the traditionalists who refuse to surrender biblical truth.

The new century has come and the Church still stands uncompromisingly for the truth and for Christ. It now appears that there is nothing less relevant as yesterdays “modern.”

What has changed is the media. In 1979, most people got their news from the major networks and newspapers. The dissenters within the Church were probably never as numerous as the media made them appear to be, but for a long time they were the only voices we heard.

Today it is different. First, we have EWTN. The Eternal World Television Network now reaches 80 percent of homes in the United States. This has allowed the pope and teachers faithful to the Church to speak directly to the people. Catholics can hear the truth without distortion.

We have seen the rise of talk radio, which has undermined the ability of the mainstream media to shape the news. The pro-lifers discovered they were not alone.

We have the Internet, which in spite of its many dangers is a way for Catholics to educate themselves and to engage in various forms of activism. My favorite Internet news source is out of Canada. LifeSiteNews covers the pro-life, pro-family, and religious freedom news from around the world with its own writers and links to local coverage. It’s like having an international newspaper delivered every morning with all the news a concerned Catholic needs.

Television is no longer dominated by the three major networks. The extensive coverage of the Holy Father’s visit on FoxNews was fantastic. The anchors were enthusiastic. The priests/guests knew what they were talking about. One of Fox’s lovely blond ladies beamed as she exclaimed that Catholics really know how to put on a show. What is more amazing is that the “show” she was praising was nothing more than a beautifully celebrated Mass.

Of course, much of the credit for the success of the visit must go to the Holy Father himself. Benedict never missed a beat. He had the right word for every occasion.

The world has changed and John Paul the Great must be credited for leading the way. But we the faithful have played our part. We listened, we responded, we made our voices heard. There is much more to do. Benedict XVI has pointed the way and we will follow.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Pope's Meeting with Avery Dulles

Another private moment when Benedict was in the U.S., described in the National Catholic Register:

Amid the great public spectacles of his visit to America, Pope Benedict XVI made time for a private, poignant encounter with Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, on April 19 at New York’s St. Joseph’s Seminary.

Cardinal Dulles, suffering the effects of post-polio syndrome, now lives in the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University. As his muscles atrophy, he is no longer able to walk and is unable to speak. He was therefore unable to participate in the papal events alongside the other cardinals.

Instead, the Holy Father decided to meet him privately as a gesture of esteem and affection...

...Benedict, the university professor, saluted America’s greatest scholarly theologian. And, suitably, the latter encounter was private, at Fordham, a place of teaching, with the two scholars speaking about their earlier theological collaborations and their books.

“Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Commission in the 1990s,” said the Holy Father as he greeted Cardinal Dulles with obvious enthusiasm. Cardinal Dulles kissed the papal ring and smiled back at Benedict. Unable to speak, Cardinal Dulles had prepared a text that was read to the Holy Father by a fellow Jesuit priest.

Cardinal Dulles then presented Benedict with a copy of his most recently published book, a splendid collection of the McGinley Lectures he has been delivering at Fordham for 20 years under the title Church and Society.

Benedict immediately took it in hand, read the inscription and began to look through the pages — as happy as any scholar is to get a new book by a respected friend.

Archbishop John C. Neinstedt

Takes the reigns of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul as the Holy Father accepts the retirment of Archbishop Flynn today. See Vatican News Service