Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cheeseburger in a Can

Cardinal: It's the Thought That Counts

Cor Unum President Presents Pope

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- God looks at the thoughts and intentions of those who give alms, not the amount given, said the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Cardinal Paul Cordes joined Hans-Peter Rothlin, president of the Catholic association Aid to the Church in Need, to present today Benedict XVI's message for Lent. The message is titled "Christ Made Himself Poor for You."

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is the agency that coordinates and promotes the world's Catholic institutions of assistance and volunteering.

The cardinal first noted the high structural costs of assistance organizations, noting that sometimes 50% of revenue is spent on maintaining them.

He then focused on how Benedict XVI's message highlights the intention with which benefactors should aid the poor.

"In the first place," the cardinal explained, "the Pope shows -- above all to practicing Christians -- the indissoluble bond between piety and caring for the needy."

The Holy Father also speaks of the intentions of the donor, the cardinal noted. "At a time in which such great honor is paid to benefactors it is certainly appropriate to call attention to the spirit of a benefactor's gesture, which is not to look to the glorification of self but to the glorification of the Father who is in heaven," he said. "The love of God is at the root of all good actions accomplished by man."

Cardinal Cortes recalled the Holy Father's reference to the evangelical episode of the widow who gave everything she had.

The prelate affirmed that "the value of our gifts is measured not on the basis of the amount stamped on the coins. Before God it is only the hand of the donor that determines the importance of a gift. Its value depends on the [...] thoughts and intentions that have caused the person to give."

Supporting the Church

During the presentation, Rothlin explained the work of Aid to the Church in Need, saying that it is "not an order or an ecclesial community, but a 'work' that has the aim of helping the Church wherever she is not capable of carrying out her mission without external assistance."

Aid to the Church in Need is an international pastoral aid organization under the authority of the Holy See.

In the "Spiritual Guidelines" written by the organization's founder in 2002 shortly before his death, he indicated that "the majority of his 'benefactors' were and remain simple people who do not possess great wealth, but are, rather, like the widow of the Gospel who makes her offering in secret [...] then goes on her way," Rothlin said.

The text of the "Spiritual Guidelines" make it clear, Rothlin added, that those who distribute the offerings "must never forget that 'they are not just administrating money, but above all the charity of our benefactors.'"

"Here we come to the central point of the Holy Father's message," he said, "which could be entitled: 'The secret of almsgiving is charity.'"

I'm Strong to the Finish When I Eats Me Spinach

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2008


“Christ made Himself poor for you” (2 Cor 8,9)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church. In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).

2. According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value, according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3,17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.

3. The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4). Just a short while before, He said not to boast of one’s own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2). The disciple is to be concerned with God’s greater glory. Jesus warns: “In this way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5,16). Everything, then, must be done for God’s glory and not our own. This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision. In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us. How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one’s neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one’s personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vainglory: for this reason, the one, who knows that God “sees in secret” and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.

4. In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35). When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy. Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more: Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins: “Charity,” he writes, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4,8). As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift. In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.

5. Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo forthrightly recommends: “Never keep an account of the coins you give, since this is what I always say: if, in giving alms, the left hand is not to know what the right hand is doing, then the right hand, too, should not know what it does itself” (Detti e pensieri, Edilibri, n. 201). In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury “all she had to live on” (Mk 12,44). Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol: this widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8,9); He gave His entire self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example. In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.

6. Dear brothers and sisters, Lent invites us to “train ourselves” spiritually, also through the practice of almsgiving, in order to grow in charity and recognize in the poor Christ Himself. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Apostle Peter said to the cripple who was begging alms at the Temple gate: “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk” (Acts 3,6). In giving alms, we offer something material, a sign of the greater gift that we can impart to others through the announcement and witness of Christ, in whose name is found true life. Let this time, then, be marked by a personal and community effort of attachment to Christ in order that we may be witnesses of His love. May Mary, Mother and faithful Servant of the Lord, help believers to enter the “spiritual battle” of Lent, armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts, renewed in spirit. With these wishes, I willingly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 30 October 2007


Monday, January 28, 2008

Vatican Mourns Death of Greek Orthodox Leader

Bishop Says He Was Key Player in Ecumenical Progress

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is mourning the death of Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, who died today at 69.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of Archbishop Christodoulos, for whom we have often prayed during these long months of his illness," Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told ZENIT.

The archbishop died of liver and intestine cancer in his home in Athens. The Holy See will send a delegation to his funeral, scheduled for Thursday.

Bishop Farrell said the Orthodox archbishop was a key player in ecumenism: "It must be recognized that he personally made a significant contribution to improving relations between the Church of Greece and the Catholic Church.

"The turning point was the visit of Pope John Paul II to Athens in 2001, when Christodoulos welcomed him in spite of vocal opposition in Greece to the Pope's visit. Since then there is a new climate of cooperation between our pontifical council and the Church of Greece."

In December 2006, Archbishop Christodoulos and other Greek Orthodox leaders repaid the visit by going to the Vatican. They spent a lengthy time in cordial conversation with Benedict XVI.

"The warmth of his personality and his determined efforts to strengthen his Church's presence in Europe enabled us to have a close, personal relationship with him," Bishop Farrell explained.

Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis, president of the conference of Catholic bishops of Greece, told Vatican Radio that Archbishop Christodoulos was "a conservative and a traditionalist, but his tradition was that of the Gospel."

"Now," he added, "we eagerly await what the Spirit stirs up for the continuation of the ecumenical path already begun, and in which there is no going back. There is no lack of difficulties, but hope should not abandon us."

Romney: I won’t be McCain’s VP

For a moment Monday, Mitt Romney seemed to nominate himself for a job he doesn't want.

“It’s not really something he understands that well. He’s said it a number of times and indicated that he’d have to choose a vice president who really understood the economy. Well, I do understand the economy.” Catching himself, he added, “I’m not going to be any vice president to John McCain either, that’s not going to happen.”

With Romney and McCain locked in a dead heat in the polls on the eve of Florida primary, barbs have been lobbed back and forth all day long between the two camps.

Romney kicked it off before the sun even came up at a press conference at a gas station, criticizing McCain for the McCain-Lieberman bill that Romney says would make gas prices go up $0.50 and cost Florida families around $1,000 per year...

McCain responded quickly, arguing that Romney had been a supporter of the three issues the bills target, “One thing I think we should really give Governor Romney credit for - he is consistent. He has consistently taken both sides on any major issue, he has consistently flip-flopped.”

In a statement, McCain added, “At a time of grave national security challenges abroad and real economic uncertainty at home, now is not the time for leaders whose consistency is in question.”

Rich Culture Nourishes Catholic Writers

Interview With Author Gregory Roper

By Carrie Gress

ROME, JAN. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Good Catholic writers need to be sustained and nourished by a rich culture, and look to the great authors of the past for inspiration and guidance, says author Gregory Roper.

Roper, author of "The Writer's Workshop: Imitating Your Way to Better Writing" (ISI Books), is an English professor at the University of Dallas.

In this interview with ZENIT, he discusses what future Catholic writers can do to become great Catholic writers.

Q: You grew up the in South and attribute your love of language to your father. Why do you think there is such a rich heritage of Catholic writers from the South, such as Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy?

Roper: Well, this is a phenomenon that has been studied extensively, precisely because there have been so many fine Southern writers, and because Southern literature was one of the first, like the Irish literature of the early 20th century, to show that a specific, grounded, regional literature could be universal and speak to universal truths. But a strange thing has happened: People have realized that all great writing is like this, grounded in the specific, regional voice of its time and place. Whether it is Homer or Shakespeare, Gabriele d'Annunzio or James Joyce, the vibrant voice comes out when it is grounded in the particular accents and idioms and phrasings of a people.

But to comment specifically on the South: I wonder if, because it was rural, agrarian, underdeveloped, and just plain hot and often humid, Southerners just moved more slowly, took their time more than other early 20th-century people. While T.S. Eliot and Igor Stravinsky were showing a world increasingly hurried and dislocated and fragmented, Southerners were still sitting and talking, telling stories.

I'll never forget my grandmother bustling about the kitchen, an entire state's genealogy in her head, telling us stories about relatives we never knew we had, or my grandfather, seemingly asleep, toothpick in his mouth, in white cream recliner, correcting her on a minor point regarding which third cousin was married to whom. That tie to the concrete in which we find the universal -- that is, the image -- is what makes southern speech so vibrant.

Q: There seems to be a dearth of good Catholic literature in the world today, and with the ever-growing text-messaging culture, writing well seems to be threatened all the more. What other factors do you see working against the art of writing?

Roper: That's a complex set of issues, but in some ways the answer is very simple, and I say it on the first pages of "The Writer's Workshop": People don't read. Or they read, but they only read e-mails and self-help books, not the rich, sustaining literature that gives them a world in language.

My students who are already pretty darned good writers by the time they come to me all report the same thing: There was reading in their homes. There were magazines scattered about; there were regular trips to the library. Most of all, there was reading out loud, so they learned from mom's dramatizations and dad's different voices the beauty of words and the flow of a well-crafted sentence.

These students know how a sentence works; they know what a paragraph sounds and feels like; they know the rhythms of prose, and how different writers sound. As they matured, their parents directed them to better writing, and it grew with them. Most of them can't tell you where they learned to write, but when you press them, this is the one factor that is always, always present. Conversely, for those who struggle in their writing, the one factor is almost always that they grew up in a family, and a wider culture, with very little reading.

Another problem is simply the poor state of teaching of grammar and usage in schools. You simply can't write well without the basic tools, just like you cannot play an instrument well without being able to play scales and arpeggios and knowing the fingerings. But if you do know those things, and know them cold, you can then move on to make music.

This is where John Paul II's wide concern with the culture at large was so significant; he saw that good theology, like good arts, good literature, comes from a rich, significant culture, and really can't come about from a thin, harried, rushed, impatient culture, or one that doesn't have a grasp on truth in its schools and other cultural organs.

Good Catholic writing will come from thoughtful Catholics, sustained by the culture of this new exciting "JPII Generation," who will put words on a page to say the truth. I don't think we should be worrying specifically about creating a Catholic literature, but about creating the culture that will nourish those who will write.

Q: Your book suggests that people can learn to write or improve their writing by imitating the greats, such as Dante, Virgil, St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer? How is this effective?

Roper: The way it has always been effective for 2,500 years ... and not just in writing, but in every art. By working with a master -- a master cobbler or blacksmith or violin maker or writer or musician -- you get careful, up-close time with real craft; if you slow down and take apart how it works, you can see how the writer crafted effective, beautiful, evocative sentences. You start to see how this vibrant, vivid voice makes a person, a scene, an argument, come alive. This is how all arts have been learned, and it's only recently we've forgotten that.

Part of the idea for this book came when I found myself in the afternoons coaching women's soccer. Now soccer is an enormously fluid sport; it never stops for 45 minutes, and the situations are changing all the time; the coach can't come out, stop the action, and tell the players what to do. The players have to see, understand and do it themselves.

How could I teach players how to move, to get open for a pass, or better yet, how to run to set up a teammate to receive just the perfect pass? I had to think, how did "I" learn to do that? It came, I realized, from watching professionals and others over and over again, so that I "just knew" what to do.

So I had to break this down for the players into discrete small "moves." I played videos showing them pros doing this -- then we'd walk through, imitating an overlap run, a flat pass, a pass to split the defense. And they got it -- they started to see how you move on a soccer field, how the whole thing, done well, becomes a beautifully improvised ballet. I began to realize, this is what I have to do with their writing -- break it down by showing them the real greats doing these moves.

Q: What about those who say that there is nothing creative, and therefore, worthwhile in such an exercise? That writing is best done in free form.

Roper: I would say they are the victims of a kind of debased Romanticism that is sadly all too present in our culture. And that they are just historically ignorant of how writers have always worked.

How did Virgil create the greatest Latin epic except by modeling the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" -- and yet in doing so creating something entirely new in the "Aeneid"? How did Shakespeare create "Hamlet," "King Lear," and others except by adapting and creatively engaging with his sources? The greatest art is always imitating, adapting, commenting upon, and creatively talking back to the work it is imitating.

This is precisely what T.S. Eliot taught us in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," and it is what the Church knows is what makes authentic Catholic tradition at once so faithful and so vibrantly new at all times.

Q: What role does logic play in good writing?

Roper: One of the most thrilling things to me about the Holy Father's papacy so far is his call to clear thinking, to logic and the West's tradition of philosophical understanding, testing, verification, understanding. Good writing is good thinking and vice versa; there's no way around it.

Again, some early reviewers for other presses thought this book was only about style or the dressing of good thinking, but I am trying to suggest that nothing could be further from the truth -- how you lay out your words is crucially how you are thinking; form and content are inseparable, and the students start to see this as they shift from one writer's voice to the next, taking the same content in new directions.

Good, clear thinking can come from working with these writers. For many of my students, some of whom have never encountered Aquinas before, the Thomistic proof is a revelation and a challenge to them -- that someone could be so careful in his thinking, could so meticulously and fair-mindedly lay out his opponents' views first, and then engage so fruitfully with his opponents' views in order to arrive at the truth! It is a real turning point for them. My hope is that they begin to see and dedicate themselves to the truth by seeing Aquinas' dedication to it.

State of the Union


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Terry's Blades of Glory

Cathy wrote: Terry "was in training as an Olympic figure skater for many years. He only said he was in the monastery and had taken a vow of celibacy because, well, he really had to come up with some reason for.....well....the photo below says it all.."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith on Communion on the Tongue

From The New Liturgical Movement:
...At the same time, speaking of communion in the hand, it must be recognized that the practice was improperly and quickly introduced in some quarters of the Church shortly after the Council, changing the age-old practice and becoming regular practice for the whole Church. They justified the change saying that it better reflected the Gospel or the ancient practice of the Church... Some, to justify this practice referred to the words of Jesus: "Take and eat" (Mk 14, 22; Mt 26, 26).

Whatever the reasons for this practice, we cannot ignore what is happening worldwide where this practice has been implemented. This gesture has contributed to a gradual weakening of the attitude of reverence towards the sacred Eucharistic species whereas the previous practice had better safeguarded that sense of reverence. There instead arose an alarming lack of recollection and a general spirit of carelessness. We see communicants who often return to their seats as if nothing extraordinary has happened... In many cases, one cannot discern that sense of seriousness and inner silence that must signal the presence of God in the soul.

Then there are those who take away the sacred species to keep them as souvenirs, those who sell, or worse yet, who take them away to desecrate it in Satanic rituals. Even in large concelebrations, also in Rome, several times the sacred species has been found thrown onto the ground.

This situation not only leads us to reflect upon a serious loss of faith, but also on outrageous offenses...

The Pope speaks of the need not only to understand the true and deep meaning of the Eucharist, but also to celebrate it with dignity and reverence. He says that we must be aware of "gestures and posture, such as kneeling during the central moments of the Eucharistic Prayer." (Sacramentum Caritatis, 65). Also, speaking about the reception of the Holy Communion he invites everyone to "make every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament." (Sacramentum Caritatis, 50).

In this vein, the book written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan entitled Dominus Est is significant and appreciated. He wants to make a contribution to the current debate on the real and substantial presence of Christ in the consecrated species of bread and wine... from his experience, which aroused in him a deep faith, wonder and devotion to the Lord present in the Eucharist, he presents us with a historical-theological [consideration] clarifying how the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tonue and kneeling has been accepted and practiced in the Church for a long period of time.

Now I think it is high time to review and re-evaluate such good practices and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries. Now, more than ever, we must help the faithful to renew a deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in order to strengthen the life of the Church and defend it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith that this situation continues to cause.

The reasons for this move must be not so much academic but pastoral - spiritual as well as liturgical - in short, what builds better faith. Mons. Msgr. Schneider in this sense shows a commendable courage because he has been able to grasp the true meaning of the words of St. Paul: "but everything should be done for building up" (1 Cor 14, 26).

MALCOLM RANJITH Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship

Bill Clinton's Running Again — and It's All About Him

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Bill Clinton is running again. For what, exactly, isn't clear.

Watch: He's stalking the stage in South Carolina, as he did in New Hampshire and Iowa — a microphone in one hand, a wagging finger in the air, eyes wide open, the lip strategically bitten...

"The former president is pathological about preserving his own place in the spotlight," liberal columnist William Greider wrote Wednesday. "He can't stand it when he is not the story, and, one way or another, he will make himself the story..."

Which Church Father Are You?

You are St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father
you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Christ's Healing Is the Real Thing

Gospel Commentary for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

ROME, JAN. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Gospel passage for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time closes with these words: "Jesus went about all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and infirmity of the people."

About one-third of the Gospel is concerned with the healings performed by Jesus during the brief time of his public life. It is impossible to eliminate these miracles or try to give a natural explanation to them without pulling apart the whole Gospel and making it incomprehensible.

The miracles of the Gospel have unmistakable characteristics. They are never done to stupefy or promote the one who does them. Some today allow themselves to be enchanted by certain people who possess powers of levitation, or who can make objects appear and disappear, or who can do other things of this sort. Who gains anything from these types of miracles, supposing that they are miracles? Only those who perform them; they recruit disciples or make money.

Jesus works miracles out of compassion, because he loves people. He also works miracles to help them believe. He heals, ultimately, to proclaim that God is the God of life and that, in the end, together with death, sickness too will be defeated and "there will be no more mourning nor weeping."

It is not only Jesus who heals, but he also orders his disciples to do the same after him: "He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the infirm" (Luke 9:2). "Preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick" (Matthew 10:7ff.). We always find the two things linked: preaching the Gospel and healing the sick.

Man has two ways to try to overcome his infirmities: nature and grace. Nature indicates intelligence, science, medicine, technology; grace indicates direct recourse to God, through faith and prayer and the sacraments. The latter are the means that the Church has at its disposal to "heal the sick."

Evil begins when we try to take a third route: the way of magic, that which appeals to a person's supposed hidden powers, which are not based on science nor on faith. In such a case, either we are dealing with a total charlatan and illusion or, what is worse, with the enemy of God.

It is not hard to determine when we are dealing with a true gift of healing and when it is a magical counterfeit. In the first case the person never attributes the results that are obtained to his own powers, but to God; in the second case people are doing nothing other than showing off their own pretended "extraordinary powers."

When you read advertisements that claim so-and-so the magician "succeeds where others fail," "solves all problems," "is recognized to have extraordinary powers," "expels demons, rids you of the evil eye," you need not have a moment's doubt: You are dealing with a fraud. Jesus said that demons are chased out by "fasting and prayer," not by giving people money!

But we must ask ourselves another question: What about those people who, despite everything, are not healed? What do you think? Do they not have faith? Does God not love them?

If the persistence of a disease were a sign that a person did not have faith, or that God does not love him, we would have to say that the saints had the least amount of faith and that they were the least loved by God, because some of them spent their whole lives in bed. No, the answer is different.

God's power is not manifested in just one way, say, in eliminating evil or in physical healings. God's power also manifests itself in giving the ability, and sometimes the joy, of carrying our own cross with Christ and in making up what is lacking in his sufferings.

Christ also redeemed suffering and death. It is no longer the sign of sin, participation in Adam's fault, but rather it is the instrument of redemption.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

* * *

Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23.

Canon Law Makes Us Free, Says Pope

Explains That It Is Founded on Sacraments

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The law of the Church is liberating, Benedict XVI says: It is the law that makes Catholics free to follow Christ.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience participants of a congress organized by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

He stated that "the 'ius ecclesiae' is not just a collection of norms produced by the ecclesial legislator for that particular group of people who form the Church of Christ. It is, primarily, the authoritative declaration by the ecclesial legislator of the duties and rights which are founded on the sacraments and which, consequently, derive from what Christ himself instituted."

The Holy Father quoted a phrase used by Blessed Antonio Rosmini to the effect that "the human person is the essence of law." This, he went on, is something "we must also emphasize for canon law: The essence of canon law is the Christian individual in the Church."

The law of the Church, he added, is an aid to accomplishing its final purpose: the salvation of souls.

"The Church recognizes that her laws have the nature and [...] the pastoral function of enabling her to pursue her final aim which is that of achieving 'salus animarum.' [...] In order for canon law to perform this vital service it must, first and foremost, be well structured," the Bishop of Rome explained. "This means, on the one hand, that it must be linked to the theological foundations that give it its reasonableness and that are an essential sign of ecclesial legitimacy and, on the other, that it must it must adhere to the changeable circumstances of the history of the people of God."

"Moreover," the Pontiff continued, canon law "must be clearly and unambiguously formulated in such a way as to remain in harmony with the other laws of the Church. Hence it is necessary to abrogate norms that have become outdated, modify those in need of correction, interpret -- in the light of the living magisterium of the Church -- those that are unclear and, finally, fill any 'lacunae legis.'"

Benedict XVI reminded the members of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of their duty to ensure "that the activities of those structures within the Church called to dictate norms for the faithful may always reflect [...] the union and communion that are characteristic of the Church."

"The law of the Church is, first of all, 'lex libertatis': the law that makes us free to follow Jesus," he concluded. "Hence it is important we know how to show the people of God, the new generations and all those called to follow canon law, the real bond [that law] has with the life of the Church." This must be done in order "to defend the delicate interests of the things of God and to protect the rights of the weakest, [...] but also in order to defend that delicate 'good' which each of the faithful has gratuitously received -- the gift of faith, of the grace of God -- which in the Church cannot remain without adequate legal protection."

L.A. Religious Education Congress

Father Richtsteig writes that his catechists would only be sent to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress over his "dead, burnt, and bleeding body."

Jazz Liturgy - L.A. Religious Education Congress - March 3, 2007

Related links:

Debate Whispers

From the Lew Rockwell blog:

"This is going around the internet. Listen to the audible voice cluing Romney in when he didn't know the answer to the Reagan question.

MSNBC's First Read blog put up a post about it and then took it down."


Strange Whisper Before Romney Answer Perplexes Debate Viewers

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Papal Secrets for Getting the Message Out

Navarro Valls Analyzes Communication of Benedict XVI and John Paul II

By Mercedes de la Torre

ROME, JAN. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is an extraordinary communicator, says a former Vatican spokesman, and his message is just what people want to hear.

Joaquín Navarro Valls, the director of the Vatican press office from 1984 to 2006, was known for years as the face and voice behind Vatican news, especially during the final illness of Pope John Paul II.

He told ZENIT that there is a secret behind the efficient communication of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI: their message.

"The problem of problems in all communication is having something to say, and then, in second place, knowing how to develop a semantic, an adequate way of saying what you want to say," Navarro Valls said.

"Both these elements in John Paul II were extraordinary," he affirmed. "He had a great human message about human and Christian values to communicate to the world, and he did this in an extraordinarily efficacious way, and quite simply, this was what produced this phenomenon during the years of his long pontificate, […] the fascination that public opinion felt toward him, which was the consequence, I insist, of what he said and of how he said it."

Navarro Valls described Benedict XVI's pontificate as a "great pastoral care of the intelligence."

He clarified: "[Benedict XVI] has a great conceptual richness, such a wealth of content in his way of explaining things, that he is clarifying for an entire generation, for an entire age of humanity, many basic concepts, concepts that people no longer understood, such as, for example, when he speaks of human love or human dignity, etc.

"He is doing this in an extraordinary way, addressing himself directly to the intelligence of people, and I think the reaction that is being seen in many environments around the world is simply to say: 'This is what we want to hear, what is current in this moment, what this cultural moment needs.'"


A Better Presidential Candidate?

Many people (including myself) are disappointed with the current crop of presidential candidates. A friend alerted me to the fact that a new promising candidate is garnering a great deal of attention. Clearly he's brighter than the rest of the pack and he has rock solid credentials.

Some experts state that there is little chance that he'll have any impact but his supporters firmly believe that he has a great shot at shaking up the race.

"A Change Is Gonna Come... At 180,000 Miles An Hour"

"Go Out Because Your Government Approved Doctor
Didn't Approve Proper Treatment or Go Out In Style"

"Finally a Candidate You Can Trust. His Positions are Etched in Stone"

Three little pigs 'could offend builders, Muslims'

A story based on the Three Little Pigs has been rejected by a government quango in case it offends Muslims.

The digital remake of the children's classic was criticised by Becta, the education technology agency, because "the use of pigs raises cultural issues".

Officials also attacked the story - called The Three Little Cowboy Builders - for stereotyping the building trade.

The comments were condemned by the computer program's creator as "a slap in the face".

It is the latest in a string of bans slapped on seemingly innocuous children's stories and nursery rhymes.

Three little pigs
A digital version of the children's tale Three Little Pigs has
been rejected by Becta because it 'raises cultural issues'

In the past, Baa Baa Black Sheep has become Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep to satisfy race relations, the Seven Dwarfs have been axed from Snow White to avoid offending the vertically challenged and the ending of Humpty Dumpty has been censored for fear of upsetting sensitive children.

The latest controversy was sparked during an awards ceremony designed to honour the best educational stories, programmes and teaching aids for children.

Dozens of companies submitted entries to the annual BETT awards, led by Becta, which heaped praise on a robot with 67 different manoeuvres, a computer program which allows children to recreate Jackson Pollock paintings and a game helping pupils to learn French.

But Newcastle-based publishers Shoo Fly were shocked when judges told them that their interactive 3D book was unsuitable for children.

In a feedback form, Becta told the company: "Judges would not recommend this product to the Muslim community in particular."

They also said that the subject was "questionable for certain groups within the UK" and that "only an exceedingly creative teacher could find this innovative".

The story for primary school pupils replaces pigs with "cowboy builders" as part of a light-hearted tale designed to spark interest in reading and design technology skills.

Young children are encouraged to read the story and create their own versions using the software.

But its authors were also told that it portrays the building industry in a bad light.

Judges said "retelling a story" was acceptable, but it "should not alienate parts of the workforce", adding that builders should be "positive" role models for young children.

"Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?" the judges asked.

Anne Curtis, the founder of Shoo Fly, which won a prize at the prestigious Education Resource Awards for the story, said: "The feedback amounted to a verbal assault.

"I feel these criticisms aim to close the minds of teachers and young people to some issues."

Muslims criticised Becta's response and insisted that a computer program based on the Three Little Pigs should be welcomed in state schools.

Tahir Alam, the head of education at the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We are not offended by that at all."

Yesterday, the quango stood by the verdict, which was made by 70 independent judges, mainly teachers.

A spokesman said: "The feedback makes clear that the issues highlighted were a small selection from a much broader range of comments."

Pope Says Youths Are Not Being Well Educated in Values of Life

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said today's younger generations are not being well educated in the fundamental values of life.

The result is an "educational emergency" that has left many young people unhappy and disoriented, he said. The letter was made public at the Vatican Jan. 23.

The papal text touched on a sensitive issue in Italy, where the school system has been the focus of political battles and student protests in recent years.

"Educating has never been easy, and today it seems to be increasingly difficult. This is well known to parents, teachers, priests and all those who have direct educational responsibilities," the pope said.

It's unfair to blame the children, but blaming today's adults doesn't tell the whole story either, he said. The problem involves the personal responsibilities of young people and adults, but goes beyond that, he said.

At the root of the problem, he said, is "a widespread atmosphere, a mentality and a form of culture that lead people to doubt the value of the human person, and the very meaning of truth and goodness."

Values cannot be inherited but must be taught to every new generation, he said, and when such "essential certainties" are ignored, there are bound to be problems.

That's why parents today are so worried about the future of their children, why some teachers are distressed at the degradation of their schools, and why young students feel anxious when faced with life's challenges, he said.

He encouraged educators to take heart, however, and said the problems were solvable.

The pope listed some requisites of an authentic education. For one thing, he said, teachers need to recognize that true education must provide more than superficial facts or information. It should provide a sense of empathy and trust that comes from love, he said.

Nor should parents and educators try to keep children from every negative experience or failure in life, he said. Suffering is part of life, and without it "we risk raising, despite our good intentions, people who are fragile and not very generous," he said.

Above all, the pope said, educators and students need to find the right balance between discipline and freedom.

"Without rules of behavior and of life, respected every day even in small things, character is not formed and one is not prepared to face the trials that will appear in the future," he said.

NYPD Seeks an Air Monitor Crackdown for New Yorkers

A city councilman and the cops don't want you to have that Geiger counter without their permission

by Chris Thompson
January 15th, 2008 5:13 PM

Damn you, Osama bin Laden! Here's another rotten thing you've done to us: After 9/11, untold thousands of New Yorkers bought machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But a lot of these machines didn't work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.

OK, none of that has actually happened. But Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, knows that it's just a matter of time. That's why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors to get a permit from the police first. And it's not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you "will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety," the first draft of the law states.

Last week, Falkenrath made his case for the new law before the City Council's Public Safety Committee, where Councilman Peter Vallone introduced the bill and chaired the hearing. Dozens of university researchers, public-health professionals, and environmental lawyers sat in the crowd, horrified by the prospect that if this law passes, their work detecting and warning the public about airborne pollutants will become next to impossible. But Falkenrath pressed on, saying that unless the police can determine who gets to look for nasty stuff floating in the air, the city would be paralyzed by fear.

"There are currently no guidelines regulating the private acquisition of biological, chemical, and radiological detectors," warned Falkenrath, adding that this law was suggested by officials within the Department of Homeland Security. "There are no consistent standards for the type of detectors used, no requirement that they be reported to the police department—or anyone else, for that matter—and no mechanism for coordinating these devices. . . . Our mutual goal is to prevent false alarms . . . by making sure we know where these detectors are located, and that they conform to standards of quality and reliability."

Vallone nodded his head, duly moved by Falkenrath's presentation. Nevertheless, he had a few concerns. When the Environmental Protection Agency promised that the air surrounding Ground Zero was safe, Vallone said, independent testers proved that such assurances were utterly false. Would these groups really have to get a permit before they started working? "It's a good question, and it has come up prior to this hearing," Falkenrath replied. "What I can assure you is that we will look extremely carefully at this issue of the independent groups, and get the opinion of the other city agencies on how to handle that, and craft an appropriate response." And if people use these detectors without a permit, Vallone asked, do we really have to put them in jail? Afraid so, Falkenrath answered.

Councilman John Liu was considerably less impressed. Why, he asked, should a community group like Asthma-Free School Zones have to tell anyone, much less the police department, that they're testing for air pollution? "We have no interest in regulating air-quality sensors around schools," Falkenrath promised. "That's not what this is about."

"But then can't we just get that in the legislation from the outset, as opposed to putting it in the regulations afterwards?" asked Liu.

That, said Falkenrath, was asking too much. "It becomes a very slippery slope, and it would then be possible for many other entities to sort of drive things through that loophole."

And Liu was just the start of the critics' parade. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the bill aims to fix a problem that doesn't even exist. "I cannot think of evidence or events in our recent past involving false alarms that would create any urgency for this sweeping legislation," he said. "If Manhattanites have any anxiety related to this bill, it is the very marked anxiety that residents have about their air quality."

Dave Newman, an industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, claimed that under this law, the West Virginia air-quality experts who tested the air after 9/11 would have been a bunch of criminals. Dave Kotelchuck, deputy director of the New York/New Jersey Education and Research Center, pointed out the absurdity of having police regulate and permit research science. "Think about industrial-hygiene folks who are going from Boston to Atlanta to measure, and have atmospheric detectors," he said. "They land in LaGuardia and JFK. As soon as they land, because possession is a misdemeanor, they've committed a misdemeanor. They're not going to test in New York City; they're just travelling through. But possession, which is the way the law has stated it, alone is a misdemeanor—not use. Not attempting to make measurements—just possession. That is just unwarranted."

After an hour of this, poor Peter Vallone looked shell-shocked. He had planned to fast-track this legislation—in fact, the law was supposed to have been voted on last week—but that was before the critics had heard about it. As the opposition mounted, Vallone pulled the proposed legislation just before the meeting's end and agreed to give it a second look. "When I was first given a briefing only weeks ago, the potential problems did occur to me," he said in a later interview. "But the extent of the opposition, on such short notice, was a bit surprising."

But don't think Vallone has given up or anything. He and his colleagues will try to accommodate all the concerns when they redraft the bill, he said, but one way or another, the cops are going to have this new power. "No one's going to be completely happy in the end," Vallone said, "but I think the police department gave some very impressive testimony on the stand, and also expressed a willingness to listen to concerns." After all, if you let research scientists and community groups do their jobs, the terrorists will have already won.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pope: Pain Endured With Faith Leads to Peace

Releases Message for World Day of the Sick

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Pain is the door by which the faithful can enter into the mystery of redemption, and reach with Christ peace and happiness, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this in his message for the 16th World Day of the Sick, to be celebrated on the diocesan level Feb. 11, which has as its theme "The Eucharist, Lourdes and Pastoral Care for the Sick"

The Holy Father said the theme connects three events of the Church -- the World Day of the Sick, the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, and the celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress, to be held Jun 15-22 in Quebec City.

By contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist in connection with the World Day of the Sick, said the Pontiff, "not only will the actual participation of human suffering in the salvific work of God be celebrated, but the valuable fruits promised to those who believe can in a certain sense be enjoyed."

"Thus pain," he added, "received with faith, becomes the door by which to enter the mystery of the redemptive suffering of Jesus and to reach with him the peace and the happiness of his resurrection."

He also said that reflecting on the three events is "a remarkable opportunity to consider the close connection that exists between the mystery of the Eucharist, the role of Mary in the project of salvation and the reality of human pain and suffering."


"Mary is a model of total self-abandonment to the will of God," he said. "To reflect upon the Immaculate Conception of Mary is thus to allow oneself to be attracted by the 'yes' that joined her wonderfully to the mission of Christ, the redeemer of humanity.

"It is to allow oneself to be taken and led by her hand to pronounce in one's turn 'fiat' to the will of God, with all one's existence interwoven with joys and sadness, hopes and disappointments, in the awareness that tribulations, pain and suffering make rich the meaning of our pilgrimage on earth."

"One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ," continued Benedict XVI, "and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary. There is an indissoluble link between the Mother and the Son, generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this link we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the sacrament of the Eucharist."

Mary is a "woman of the Eucharist," noted the Pope, explaining that this why at Lourdes the devotion to the Virgin Mother "is joined to a strong and constant reference" to the sacrament.

The Pontiff continued: "The presence of many sick pilgrims in Lourdes, and of the volunteers who accompany them, helps us to reflect on the maternal and tender care that the Virgin expresses toward human pain and suffering.

"Mary suffers with those who are in affliction, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help."


Speaking of the International Eucharistic Congress in Canada, the Holy Father said the event "will be an opportunity to worship Jesus Christ present in the sacrament of the altar, to entrust ourselves to him as hope that does not disappoint, to receive him as that medicine of immortality which heals the body and the spirit."

He said the theme of the congress -- "The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World" -- emphasizes how the Eucharist is the gift that the Father makes to the world of His only Son, incarnated and crucified."

Benedict XVI continued: "It is specifically from the Eucharist that pastoral care in health must draw the necessary spiritual strength to come effectively to man's aid and to help him to understand the salvific value of his own suffering.

"Mysteriously united to Christ, the man who suffers with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God becomes a living offering for the salvation of the world."

Heath Ledger

April 4, 1979 - January 22, 2008

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pontiff Blesses Lambs on St. Agnes' Feast

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In keeping with a tradition for today's feast of St. Agnes, Benedict XVI blessed two live lambs whose wool will be used to weave palliums.

The Pope blessed the lambs this morning in the Apostolic Palace. The palliums woven from the lambs' wool will be bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The pallium is a white band embroidered with six black crosses and worn over the shoulders. It has two hanging pieces, front and back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, the pallium symbolizes authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff.

Massive Crowd Shows Support for Pope

Vatican, Jan. 21, 2008 (CWNews.com) - A crowd of about 200,000 people assembled in St. Peter's Square for the regular papal Sunday audience on January 20, in a massive show of support for Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news).

After the Pontiff cancelled a scheduled appearance at La Sapienza university on January 17, due to noisy public protests, Cardinal Camillo Ruini (bio - news)suggested that Catholics in Rome should attend the regular Angelus audience to show solidarity with the Pontiff. The result was a full crowd in St. Peter's Square, with many participants carrying signs and joining in chants to underline their support.

Pope Benedict was repeatedly interrupted by applause as he addressed the crowd, particularly when he spoke about his plans to speak at La Sapienza and his lifelong commitment to freedom of academic inquiry. At one point the crowd, taking up the Pope's argument, joined in a chant of "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!"

The Pope thanked the crowd for showing its commitment to "a more fraternal and tolerant society." He remarked that although his appearance at La Sapienza was rendered "inappropriate" by the protests, he remained dedicated to "frank and respectful dialogue between different points of view." Speaking directly to the many students and professors who were in the crowd, the Pontiff urged them "always to be respectful of the opinions of others and to seek truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit."

The Sunday event was relayed by an audio-visual signal to another large crowd in Milan, where another large crowd-- estimated at about 10,000-- watched the Angelus audience on a large video screen.

At the Vatican, the large crowd included a noteworthy collection of Italian political leaders, including deputy prime minister Francesco Rutelli, Rome's Rome’s deputy mayor Mariapia Garavaglia, and Senate member Paola Binetti. Also present were former justice minister Clemente Mastella, the leader of Italy’s Christian Democrats, Pier Ferdinando Casini, former prime minister Giulio Andreotti, and former president Francesco Cossiga.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Marini Book Tour Mysteriously Cancelled

"Here’s a fascinating rumour from the Vatican. You may remember that last month the Throne Room of Archbishop’s House, Westminster, was – most inappropriately – used to launch a book by Archbishop Piero Marini, the embittered ex-MC of St Peter’s, which contained a coded attack on the Pope’s liturgical reforms...."

Archbishop Piero Marini

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pope Prods Jesuits on Loyalty to Church

Vatican, Jan. 18, 2008 (CWNews.com) - In a message to the 35th general convention of the Society of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) has called for a revival of traditional Jesuit loyalty to the Catholic faith and the Holy See.

"I heartily hope that the present congregation affirms with clarity the authentic charism of the Founder so as to encourage all Jesuits to promote true and healthy Catholic doctrine," the Holy Father wrote in a message to the 225 Jesuit delegates meeting in Rome. The Pope's letter was dated January 10, but made public on January 18, the day before the general congregation was scheduled to elect a new superior general.

Pope Benedict called the Society of Jesus to a "renewed ascetic and apostolic impulse." In more specific terms he suggested that:
… it could prove extremely useful that the general congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.
The Pope also reminded the delegates of the special loyalty that Jesuits owe to the Holy See, confirmed "in a vow of immediate obedience to the successor of Peter." That loyalty is urgently needed today, he said, to help preach the Gospel message faithfully to a society "distracted by many discordant voices."

Pope Benedict offered his "most heartfelt gratitude" to the outgoing Jesuit superior, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, for nearly 25 years of leadership. He also thanked all of the Jesuits who have worked faithfully for the Church. He promised his prayers for the success of the general congregation and the future of the Jesuit order.

"Get Away From Him You XXXXXX!"

Die Hard II Trailer

5 Fred Thompson appearances:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catechism on Modernism According to the Encyclical 'Pascendi dominici gregis'

"This catechism reproduces, in its entirety and in the exact order of its ideas, the Encyclical of our Holy Father the Pope 'On the Doctrines of the Modernists.' The Text used is that of the Official Translation published with authority."

Women "Priests" Become Catholics

by Damian Thompson

At least two Anglican women priests have become Roman Catholics because they are “fed up with being treated like dirt in their own Church,” according to Fr Michael Seed, the Franciscan friar who is ecumenical adviser to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.

Women priests Jayne Fraser (left), Christina Rees and Cynthia Dowdle (right)
Christina Rees (centre) argues in favour of women bishops

Fr Seed – a deeply inspiring priest who has received many Anglicans into communion with Rome – reveals this extraordinary detail in an interview with the Independent, which has buried it away in a feature. He received two women himself – and has now told the Catholic Herald that other female priests have come over to Rome as a result of “persecution”.

In the forthcoming issue of the Herald, Fr Seed tells my colleague Simon Caldwell: “There are other Catholic priests who have dealt with cases like this. Anglican women priests are generally upset at the way they are being treated … This is hardly the Third Secret of Fatima. The persecution of women priests is well known among Anglican clergy, bishops and laity.”

Interestingly, many women clergy in the Church of England would agree with Fr Seed, even if they are not tempted to take the radical step of becoming Catholic laywomen.

Christina Rees of Women and the Church says: “Every woman who is ordained as a priest in the Church of England knows in one sense there is still a question mark hanging over her orders in a way which does not hang over the order of her male colleagues.”

Catholics, incidentally, would disagree with this last claim. There is no question mark hanging over the orders of any Anglican priest – at least, not according to Pope Leo XIII.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ad orientem: the single most important reform

by Phil Lawler
special to CWNews.com

Jan. 15, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Actions speak louder.

Before he ascended to the throne of Peter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote frequently about the liturgy, and explained his love for the Mass celebrated ad orientem-- with the priest facing toward the altar, toward the east. Now as Roman Pontiff he has made his argument all the more eloquent, simply by celebrating Mass ad orientem himself in the Sistine Chapel.

If you read about the ceremony in the secular media, you almost certainly read that the Pope had "his back to the people." While that description is not inaccurate, it is reflects a distinct perspective. You could just as well observe that the Holy Father and the other worshipers in the Sistine Chapel were "facing in the same direction."

When the priest-celebrant faces the altar, he looks like what he is: the leader of a community at prayer. Everyone is facing the same way; everyone is involved in the same action. When the priest faces the people, on the other hand, he appears to be a performer, with the people as his audience.

The liturgical changes of Vatican II were intended to encourage more active participation by the laity in the Eucharistic liturgy. But think of any other situation in which one man faces a group: a classroom lecture, a musical concert, a product demonstration, an after-dinner speech. In those situations we ordinarily expect the group to be passive: to listen but not to participate. The speaker or soloist is the focal point of the action; he commands the spotlight.

The holy Sacrifice of the Mass does not belong to any priest. This is the Sacrifice of Calvary. The celebrant is not the central actor in the liturgy, except insofar as he acts in the person of Jesus Christ. When we shine the spotlight on the person of the priest-- on his face and features, his gestures and expressions-- we can easily become distracted from the true meaning of the Eucharistic liturgy.

How often, in the years of liturgical turmoil since Vatican II, has a priest been carried away by the knowledge that he is the center of attention? How many times has the celebrant adopted the attitude that the Mass is his "show," and felt free to adapt the liturgy to fit his own personal style? And how frequently have lay Catholics-- even informed, pious Catholics-- slipped into the same attitude, so that they tell their friends, "I like Father Smith's Mass."

In reality, of course, the Eucharistic liturgy is an act of the entire Christian community, in which priest and congregation pray together as one body. As the Catechism teaches us, "The whole Church, the Body of Christ, prays and offers herself 'through him, with him, in him,' in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father." So the time-honored custom of the Church was to have the priest stand at the head of the people, all facing in the same direction, forming one body united in worship.

When priest and congregation face in the same direction, toward the altar, their posture reflects the unity of the Catholic community at worship. When they face in opposite directions, with the priest facing toward the people, that unity is broken. Liturgists refer to the usual posture for Mass today as versus populum. The Latin phrase sounds as if the priest is in competition with the people, and sometimes I think that is true.

If I could choose one reform to encourage greater reverence among Catholics and a better appreciation for the meaning of the Mass, it would be a return to the tradition of celebrating Mass ad orientem.

As it happens, however, no reform is necessary. Neither Vatican II nor any subsequent liturgical directive required priests to face the people. In 2001, when asked whether priests could still use the ad orientem posture in celebrating Mass, the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship replied that both postures, ad orientem and versus populum "are in accord with liturgical law; both are to be considered correct." In fact, the Congregation added, "there is no preference expressed in the liturgical legislation for either position."

Now, with his own public celebration of Mass ad orientem, Pope Benedict has called public attention to this option and shown the beauty of the liturgical tradition.

My own preference for the ad orientem liturgy is based mainly on practical concerns. As long as the celebrant is put in a position that tempts him to think he is "on stage," I cannot foresee an end to the unauthorized experimentation and self-indulgence that have marred the Roman liturgy since Vatican II. But Pope Benedict has more profound and more persuasive reasons for his own preference.

In his beautiful work The Spirit of the Liturgy then-Cardinal Ratzinger explains how the Christian community developed the practice of facing the east, toward Jerusalem, toward the site of the Resurrection, as a "fundamental expression of the Christian synthesis of cosmos and history, of being rooted in the once-for-all events of salvation history while going out to meet the Lord who is to come again."