Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pope Emeritus Benedict says "God told me" to resign

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Former Pope Benedict has said he resigned after "God told me to" during what he called a "mystical experience", a Catholic news agency reported.

Benedict, whose formal title is now Pope Emeritus, announced his shock resignation on February 11 and on February 28 became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years.

"God told me to do it," the Zenith agency quoted Benedict as saying to a visitor to the convent in the Vatican gardens where he is living out his retirement in near isolation.

According to the agency, Benedict told his visitor, who asked to remain anonymous, that God did not speak to him in a vision but in what the former pope called "a mystical experience".

According to Italian media, Benedict's decision to step down was influenced by the various scandals that blighted his eight-year papacy, including the arrest of his personal butler for leaking private documents alleging corruption in the Vatican.

He was succeeded by Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who was elected as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years.

According to the Rome-based Zenith, Benedict told his visitor that the more he observes the way Francis carries out his papal duties, the more he realized the choice was "wanted by God".

Last Sunday, Benedict spent a day at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, to escape the heat of the capital.

The visit indicated that the 86-year-old ex pope's health was good enough for him to travel. There had been media reports that since his resignation, Benedict's health had deteriorated dramatically.


News on Sale: The New York Times Unloads The Boston Globe

In 1983, The New York Times acquired The Boston Globe for $1.1 billion. This month, the Times sold the Globe to Boston Red Sox owner, John Henry for $70 million.

By Father Gordon J. MacRae

(These Stone Walls) My friend, Michael, is 21 years old and will soon begin his third year in prison. Michael’s father is in prison in some other state, and he long ago lost all contact with his mother. He’s been helping me out with translating some of the social network lingo for which I’ve been pretty much clueless. “If you’re writing for the on-line world,” he says, “you’ll sound like a total dork if you don’t know the language.” Well, thanks Mike! I think!

Anyway, I just learned from Michael the meaning of “LOL,” and I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it in a sentence. Father John Zuhlsdorf made me LOL last month when he published a brief commentary about my post, “The International Criminal Court Has Dismissed SNAP’s Last Gasp.” Father Zuhlsdorf twice referred to it as a “somewhat longish post.” Clearly, he hasn’t been reading These Stone Walls.

I had to LOL because that post was actually about half the length of my usual TSW post. Because of where and how I must write, I can only manage one post per week compared with Father Z’s daily or even multiple daily posts. Since I get only one weekly shot at being heard and read, I try to provide something of substance (not that Father Z doesn’t). Like most “somewhat longish” magazine articles, I try to separate sections of my posts using subheadings so readers can get back to them over multiple days, if necessary. One reader wrote in a comment awhile back, “When I open a TSW post for the first time, I sometimes groan at its length, but then when I get to the end I don’t want to be at the end.” That is probably the nicest thing any writer could ever hear!... (continued)


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Sign of the Cross: Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s Gift of Life

By Father Gordon J. MacRae

Editor’s Note: This is Part Two of a two-part post. Part One was entitled “Suffering and St Maximilian Kolbe Behind These Stone Walls.”

(These Stone Walls) Writing from England in a recent posting at the venerable Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Psychologist Brent Withers has an intriguing article entitled, “The Science of Divine Love” (July 18, 2013). It is about the means for our sanctification and it describes how our actions, sacrifices and sufferings “build up the mystical body of Christ.” It’s a concept at the very heart of St. Maximilian’s sacrifice of his life at Auschwitz, a sacrifice that gave life to another as described last week in Part One of this post. It is a concept central to the Gospel:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13)
Among his many examples of how suffering can become sacrifice, Brent Withers wrote of the “practice of non-resistance” in the spiritual life of St. Therese of Lisieux who invites us “to receive hardships warmly.” Those who survived the horrors of Auschwitz to tell of the demeanor of St. Maximilian describe a man who in life and in death lived that tenet of the Gospel. The Jewish psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, described the power of such sacrifice in his masterful work about physical, mental, and spiritual survival of Auschwitz, Man’s Search for Meaning (Beacon Press, 1992):
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” (p. 75)
These very words opened my eyes and my soul to a better path than the usual bitterness and resentment that consumes prisoners and transforms prison from Purgatory to hell. Not to be bitter, not to swallow the toxic pill of resentment, not to wear hurt and anger like a shield are a personal choice. Viktor Frankl himself used the example of Maximilian Kolbe at Auschwitz as a model for the inspiration to survive that he found in prison. It was the conclusion of Man’s Search for Meaning and the heart of TSW’s “The Paradox of Suffering: An Invitation from Saint Maximilian Kolbe.”
“Sigmund Freud once asserted, ‘Let one attempt to expose a number of the most diverse people uniformly to hunger. With the increase of the imperative urge of hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their stead will appear the uniform expression of the one unstilled urge.’ Thank heaven Sigmund Freud was spared knowing the concentration camps from the inside… Think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who was starved and finally murdered by an injection of carbolic acid at Auschwitz and who in 1983 was canonized.” (p. 153-154)..  (continued)


Friday, August 9, 2013

Mystery priest appears at Missouri accident scene, is being called an angel

By Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY

Emergency workers and community members in eastern Missouri are not sure what to make of a mystery priest who showed up at a critical accident scene Sunday morning and whose prayer seemed to change life-threatening events for the positive.

Even odder, the black-garbed priest does not appear in any of the nearly 70 photos of the scene of the accident in which a 19-year-old girl almost died. No one knows the priest and he vanished without a word, said Raymond Reed, fire chief of New London, Mo.

"I think it's a miracle," Reed said. "I would say whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don't know. Either way, I'm good with it."

Carla Churchill Lentz, mother of the teen who was critically injured, said emergency workers have told her there is no way her daughter should have lived inside such a mangled car. Of the priest, she said, "I do believe he certainly could have been an angel dressed in priest's attire because the Bible tells us there are angels among us."

The scene unfolded Sunday morning. Katie Lentz, a sophomore at Tulane University, was driving from her parents' home in Quincy, Ill., to Jefferson City, Mo., where she has a summer internship and planned to attend church with friends. The Mercedes she was driving collided with another vehicle on a highway near Center, Mo. The accident crushed Lentz's vehicle into a ball of sheet metal that lay on the driver's side, Reed said.

Reed's team and emergency workers from several other jurisdictions tried for at least 45 minutes to remove the twisted metal from around Lentz. Various pieces of equipment broke and the team was running out of choices. A helicopter waited to carry Lentz to the nearest trauma center. Though Lentz appeared calm, talking about her church and her studies toward a dentistry degree, her vital signs were beginning to fail, Reed said.

"I was pulled off to the side by one of the members of the" helicopter evacuation team, Reed said. "He expressed to me that we were out of time. Her condition looked grim for her coming out of that vehicle alive. She was facing major problems."

At that point, Reed's team agreed to take the life-threatening chance of sitting the vehicle upright so that Lentz could be removed from it. This is dangerous because a sudden change in pressure to the body can be critical, he said.

That's when Lentz asked if someone would pray with her and a voice said, "I will."

The silver-haired priest in his 50s or 60s in black pants, black shirt and black collar with visible white insert stepped forward from nowhere. It struck Reed as odd because the street was blocked off 2 miles from the scene and no one from the nearby communities recognized him.

"We're all local people from four different towns," Reed said. "We've only got one Catholic church out of three towns and it wasn't their priest."

Reed and the other emergency workers were on their knees. The priest of about medium build, maybe 6-feet-tall, stood above them.

"This priest approached Katie and began to pray openly with her," Reed said. "He had a bottle of anointing oil with him and he used that."

Another firefighter who had been watching said it appeared as if the priest also sprinkled Reed and two other emergency workers nearby with oil.

Everything happened quickly after that. Twenty emergency workers pulled together and sat the car upright, Churchill Lentz said. Katie Lentz's vital signs improved and a rescue team from a neighboring community suddenly appeared with fresh equipment and tools. Lentz was removed and rushed to the hospital.

With Lentz gone, the rescue team prepared to clean up, Reed said.

"We all go back to thank this priest and he's gone," he said.

Initially, they assumed he had to get to his home church to lead Sunday services. But then they looked at their photos of the scene.

"I have 69 photographs that were taken from minutes after that accident happened - bystanders, the extrication, our final cleanup - and he's not in them," Reed said. "All we want to do is thank him."

Meantime, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reports a 26-year-old male was arrested Sunday on charges of DWI, failure to drive on the right half of the roadway and second-degree felony assault. He was treated and released from a local hospital, according to the report.

The Facebook page of Lentz's mother, Carla Church Lentz, indicates Lentz is on the mend despite suffering two broken femurs, a broken tibia and fibia, broken left wrist, nine broken ribs, a lacerated liver, ruptured spleen and bruised lung.

Churchill Lentz said her daughter has undergone two surgeries at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Ill., and will undergo two more, but has been upgraded from critical to serious and is doing well.

"She sustained a lot of injuries, however, her face is beautiful, her teeth are perfect, she is sunshine, and everyone who's contacted us - those emergency personnel, the Missouri State Patrol, the deputies, the firemen - they are all saying the same thing, she never cried, she never screamed, she would just say, 'pray for me and pray out loud.' "


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pope Offers Beach Ball to Our Lady at Santa Maria Maggiore Before WYD

From the Eponymous Flower:

Here's the Report from
After his arrival at Ciampino airport, the Holy Father chose to stop at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major to offer a brief prayer to the Blessed Virgin for World Youth Day. 
Seeing the Pope as he entered the Basilica, a group of young people approached him and offered him a T-shirt and a ball. Pope Francis later offered the gifts to the Madonna.
This is one of the great churches of Christendom, and recalls a time when it snowed in the summer as a sign of Our Lady's favor.  It was commemorated by the command of St. Pius V in connection with Trent... (continued)