Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Church Must Detach Herself From Worldliness And Secularization

On Sunday, September 25, 2011 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, Pope Benedict met with representatives of Catholic associations active in the life of the Church and of society.

Having thanked them for their Christian service and witness, "something that is not always easy at the present time", Benedict XVI pointed out that, "for some decades now we have been experiencing a decline in religious practice and we have been seeing substantial numbers of the baptized drifting away from Church life. This prompts the question: should the Church not change?"

"The Church", he explained, "is not just other people, not just the hierarchy, the Pope and the bishops: we are all the Church, we the baptized. ... Yes, there are grounds for change. There is a need for change. Every Christian and the community of the faithful are constantly called to change. ... As far as the Church in concerned, though, the basic motive for change is the apostolic mission of the disciples and the Church herself.

"The Church, in other words, must constantly rededicate herself to her mission", he added, explaining that this mission embraces three aspects: bearing witness, making disciples in all nations and proclaiming the Gospel.

"The Church's mission has its origins in the mystery of the Triune God, in the mystery of His creative love". She "has nothing of her own to offer to Him Who founded her. She finds her meaning exclusively in being a tool of salvation, in filling the world with God's word and in transforming the world by bringing it into loving unity with God".

"In the concrete history of the Church, however, a contrary tendency is also manifested, namely that the Church becomes settled in this world, she becomes self-sufficient and adapts herself to the standards of the world. She gives greater weight to organization and institutionalization than to her vocation to openness", the Pope said.

"In order to accomplish her true task adequately, the Church must constantly renew the effort to detach herself from the 'worldliness' of the world. ... One could almost say that history comes to the aid of the Church here through the various periods of secularization, which have contributed significantly to her purification and inner reform". 

"Secularizing trends", he added, "whether by expropriation of Church goods, or elimination of privileges or the like, have always meant a profound liberation of the Church from forms of worldliness, for in the process she has set aside her worldly wealth and has once again completely embraced her worldly poverty". In freeing herself of material ties, "her missionary activity regained credibility".

Benedict XVI recalled that history shows how a Church detached from the world can bear more effective missionary witness. "Once liberated from her material and political burdens, the Church can reach out more effectively and in a truly Christian way to the whole world, she can be truly open to the world", he said. "It is not a question here of finding a new strategy to relaunch the Church. Rather, it is a question of setting aside mere strategy and seeking total transparency, not bracketing or ignoring anything from the truth of our present situation, but living the faith fully, ... stripping away from it anything that may seem to belong to faith, but in truth is mere convention or habit. 

"To put it another way: for people of every era, not just our own, the Christian faith is a scandal. ... This scandal, which cannot be eliminated unless one were to eliminate Christianity itself, has unfortunately been overshadowed in recent times by other painful scandals on the part of the preachers of the faith. A dangerous situation arises when these scandals "conceal the true demands of the Christian Gospel behind the unworthiness of those who proclaim it". 

Pope Benedict concluded: "It is time once again for the Church resolutely to set aside her worldliness. ... A Church relieved of the burden of worldliness is in a position, not least through her charitable activities, to mediate the life-giving strength of the Christian faith to those in need, to sufferers and to their caregivers. ... Openness to the concerns of the world means, then, for the Church that is detached from worldliness, bearing witness to the primacy of God's love according to the Gospel through word and deed, here and now". 

VIS 20110926 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Whoever Believes In Christ Has A Future

Thursday, September 22nd, Pope Benedict traveled to Berlin's Olympic Stadium to celebrate Mass with large numbers of faithful who had gathered there from Germany and surrounding countries.
In his homily, Benedict XVI commented on the Gospel parable of the vine and the branches.  Here are some of the highlights of that homily, dispatched by The Vatican Information Service News[VIS 20110923]:
"When Jesus says 'I am the vine, you are the branches', what He means is that 'I am you and you are I', an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, His Church. ... He continues to live in His Church in this world. He is present among us, and we are with him.
"In this parable, Jesus says 'my Father is the vine grower' who cuts off the withered branches and prunes the fruit-bearing ones, so that they bring forth more fruit. This means that God wants to bestow new life upon us, full of vitality. Christ came to call sinners. It is they who need the doctor.
"Hence, as Vatican Council II expresses it, the Church is the 'universal Sacrament of salvation', existing for sinners in order to open up to them the path of conversion, healing and life. That is the Church's true and great mission, entrusted to her by Christ.
"Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organisations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the 'Church'.
"If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen.
"It follows that belonging to the vine, to the Church, is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people's superficial and mistaken notions of 'Church', their 'dream Church', fail to materialize."
 Later the Pope went on to explain how Jesus invites us to abide in Him:
"'As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me ... If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned'. The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the existential significance of our life choices.
"At the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ Himself came into this world through His incarnation, to be our root.
"Whatever hardship or drought befall us, ... God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we 'abide' in Christ, in the vine.
"This is of particular importance in our own 'era of restlessness and lack of commitment', when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived.
"... The risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security.
"...To abide in Christ means to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ.
"... Within this communion He supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another.
"The Church is God's most beautiful gift. With and in the Church we may proclaim to all people that Christ is the source of life, that He exists, that He is the one for Whom we long so much. He gives himself.
"Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God ... wants what is fruitful and alive, He wants life in its fullness.
"... We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church. The Church, as the herald of God's word and dispenser of the Sacraments, joins us to Christ, the true vine."

In closing the Holy Father expressed the hope that the faithful may increasingly discover "the joy of being joined to Christ in the Church, that you may find comfort and redemption in your time of need and that you may increasingly become the precious wine of Christ's joy and love for this world".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Germany, Pope Benedict Speaks About Indifference To Religion In Society

Pope Benedict delivered a speech earlier today in the central Tiergarten district of Berlin, at Schloss Bellevue  -- Bellevue Palace --  the official residence of the President of Germany.

Here's the text of his speech, via the Vatican Information Service  (Highlights are mine -- "The Assistant Headmaster"):

"Even though this journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relations existing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as other statesmen rightly do, but rather to meet people and to speak about God", said the Pope in his address. "We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of an obstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarian considerations.

"All the same", he added, "a binding basis for our coexistence is needed; otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way. Religion is one of these foundations for a successful social life."  Just as religion has need of freedom, so also freedom has need of religion'. These words of the great bishop and social reformer Wilhelm von Ketteler, the second centenary of whose birth is being celebrated this year, remain timely.

"Freedom requires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom", which "develops only in responsibility to a greater good. Such a good exists only for all of us together. ... In human coexistence, freedom is impossible without solidarity. ... This holds true not only in private matters but also for society as a whole. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, society must give sufficient space for smaller structures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one day they will stand on their own".

The Holy Father went on: "Bellevue Castle, ... with its dramatic history (like many buildings of this city) is a testimony to the history of Germany. A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enables us to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present. The Federal Republic of Germany has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another. It needs this dynamism, which engages every human sector in order to continue developing now. It needs this in a world which requires a profound cultural renewal and the rediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future".

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Long Live "The King Of Instruments"!

Being a "cradle Catholic" and having  been immersed in the Faith and the Catholic culture since infancy, there are many "things-Catholic" and "things-Christian" I have unintentionally taken for granted.

One of them has been the glorious and irreplaceable presence of the pipe organ and organ music.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard, enjoyed, been moved,  and been inspired by many beautiful hymns and musical compositions written as sacred music to be played on the King Of Instruments, the pipe organ.

Many meditative organ works have grabbed my spiritual attention and aesthetic emotions over the course of fifty years.

I have been truly blessed to have heard beautiful and powerful pipe organ music which has stayed in my heart and mind throughout my life, from childhood to the present.

I grew up in a city during the mid-1950s.  Many urban or inner-city Catholic parishes had established church buildings quite some time ago, many having stood for a century or more, and all of them equipped with pipe organs.

Some of my friends in the same age bracket as me, who grew up Catholic in the suburbs, did not experience the awe and majesty of a true pipe organ.  Their newer suburban parishes erected modern church buildings as quickly as possible to serve the needs of  growing numbers of Catholics moving from the city to the suburbs.  Many of the newer suburban parish churches employed electronic organs, mostly due to the expense of having a pipe organ designed and installed. 

If you have never really experienced the beauty of a pipe organ, please accept my recommendation of the two audio CD set entitled, In A Quiet Cathedral.

This remarkable CD set was first released in August 1994. I only recently stumbled onto it while searching for the correct name of one particular pipe organ composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams that has reverberated in my mind for over thirty years: Hymn Prelude on Rhosymedrea Welsh hymn.

Organist Todd Wilson had recorded Rhosymedre as part of his masterful performances of several timeless pipe organ works for In A Quiet Cathedral.

A beautifully produced CD set,
In A Quiet Cathedral offers a type of musical experience in which one should turn the volume up (even if you use a headset), sit quietly and peacefully with one's eyes closed, and imagine that you are in a grand and expansive church, a cathedral -- a sacred space in which sound takes four or more seconds to stop echoing.

While seated in that imagined locale, give your attention and your emotions over to the majesty of the pipes.

I think you'll be impressed and feel renewed for having immersed yourself in the beauty of our Christian musical heritage --  church hymns, chorales, and meditative compositions played as they were written to be played: on the King Of Instruments!

The liner notes in this marvelous CD set are excellent, explaining each musical piece. Also, there is a version of the notes written specifically for introducing children to the wonders of the King Of Instruments.

FYI: Here is a link to a Google search if you'd like to make an online purchase of the In A Quiet Cathedral two CD set in a physical package or in MP3 format.

Holy Honeybees! 500,000 Bees Just Became Catholics!

Here's an interesting story buzzing around the net!
It's from the Vatican Information Service's September 20th Communique:
As part of its initiatives to mark the Day for the Protection of Creation, the Italian agricultural organization "Coldiretti" has given Benedict XVI eight beehives containing more than 500,000 bees. The beehives will be kept at the pontifical farm of Castelgandolfo where they will be used in pollination and the production of honey (some 280 kilos a year).

  Coldiretti explained that bees play a vital role in the planet's ecosystem and their disappearance would have disastrous consequences for health and the environment: a third of human food production depends on crops pollinated by insects, eighty percent of which are bees.

  The "Campagna Amica" Association will provide technical assistance to the pontifical farms to oversee the protection of the bees and the production of honey. Castelgandolfo is considered to be a model farm because it unites traditional production methods with modern technology. It has 25 dairy cows, 300 hens and 60 cockerels as well as an ancient olive grove producing three thousand liters of oil a year, an orchard of apricot and peach trees and a greenhouse of ornamental flowers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pope Benedict's Wednesday Audience: On Psalm 22 And The Silence Of God


VATICAN CITY, 14 SEP 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father travelled by helicopter from the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo to the Vatican, where he held his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall. In his catechesis he dwelt on the first part of Psalm 22, focusing on the theme of prayers of supplication to God.

  The Psalm, which remerges in the narrative of Christ's Passion, presents the figure of an innocent man persecuted and surrounded by adversaries who seek his death. He raises his voice to God "in a doleful lament which, in the certainty of faith, mysteriously gives way to praise".

  The Psalmist's opening cry of "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is "an appeal addressed to a God Who appears distant, Who does not respond", said the Holy Father. "God is silent, a silence that rends the Psalmists heart as he continues to cry out incessantly but finds no response". Nonetheless, he "calls the Lord 'my' God, in an extreme act of trust and faith. Despite appearances, the Psalmist cannot believe that his bond with the Lord has been severed entirely".

  The opening lament of Psalm 22 recurs in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark in the cry the dying Jesus makes from the cross. This, Benedict XVI explained, expresses all the desolation the Son of God felt "under the crushing burden of a mission which had to pass through humiliation and destruction. For this reason He cried out to the Father. ... Yet His was not a desperate cry, as the Psalmist's was".

Violence dehumanises

  Sacred history, the Pope continued, "has been a history of cries for help from the people, and of salvific responses from God". The Psalmist refers to the faith of his ancestors "who trusted ... and were never put to shame", and he describes his own extreme difficulties in order "to induce the Lord to take pity and intervene, as He always had in the past".

  The Psalmist's enemies surround him, "they seem invincible, like dangerous ravening beasts. ... The images used in the Psalm also serve to underline the fact that when man himself becomes brutal and attacks his fellow man, ... he seems to lose all human semblance. Violence always contains some bestial quality, and only the salvific intervention of God can restore man to his humanity".

  At this point, death begins to take hold of the Psalmist. He describes the moment with dramatic images "which we come across again in the narrative of Christ's Passion: the bodily torment, the unbearable thirst which finds an echo in Jesus' cry of 'I am thirsty', and finally the definitive action of his tormenters who, like the soldiers under the cross, divide among themselves the clothes of the victim, whom they consider to be already dead".

  At this point a new cry emerges, "which rends the heavens because it proclaims a faith, a certainty, that is beyond all doubt. ... The Psalm turns into thanksgiving. ... The Lord has saved the petitioner and shown him His face of mercy. Death and life came together in an inseparable mystery and life triumphed. ... This is the victory of faith, which can transform death into the gift of life, the abyss of suffering into a source of hope". Thus the Psalm leads us to relive Christ's Passion and to share the joy of His resurrection.

  In closing, the Pope invited the faithful to distinguish deeper reality from outward appearance, even when God is apparently silent. "By placing all our trust and hope in God the Father, we can pray to Him with faith at all moments of anguish, and our cry for help will turn into a hymn of praise".
VIS 20110914 (630)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001's Spiritual Victims, And How To Help Them

Over the past ten years, we have all seen bumper stickers and signs displaying various mottoes: 

  • “United We Stand.” 
  • “God Bless America.” 
  • “Some Gave All; All Gave Some.”  
  • “Never Forget.” 

Of course, we all know that these mottoes are referring to the tragedies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack within the United States.
For the past ten years, we as Catholics —  and as citizens of the United States Of America —  have been journeying through unfamiliar and disturbing events in our nation’s history.  
We witnessed the horror of the World Trade Center towers crumbling, and the Pentagon ablaze, a jetliner ditched in Pennsylvania to keep terrorists from using it as a missile.
  Many people are still victims: spiritual victims of those terror attacks.  These spiritual victims are frightened and sad, and suspicious -- suspicious about the future, suspicious about placing their trust in something that will not be able to prevail and endure. Many spiritual victims think that everything we know and love will end up like the Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon.
No, it will not end up that way.  It will not!  Because of a weapon that we have been given. A supernatural, spiritual weapon.  For a few minutes, let’s examine the weapon we have been given by Our Lord to help us to  conquer all fear: Hope.
Throughout human history, many things in our society have shaken loose and crumbled.   From time to time, political, social and economic movements that everyone thought were  indestructible, collapsed and fell into ruin.  For example: 

  • The ancient Roman Empire; 
  • The worldwide economic Depression of the 1930s; 
  • The Nazi’s Third Reich; 
  • The Enron bankruptcy scandal; 
  • The Communist Soviet Empire; 
  • The 1969 New York Mets (talk about hopeless!).

When all human societies and institutions were toppling and disintegrating;   When people were surrendering to hopelessness;   Only one reality survived and grew and provided a foundation for human society to rebuild and reform with hope of improving. That one reality that has stood the trials of history and evil – is the Holy Catholic Church.
In the Catholic Church, Our Lord Jesus gifted human beings with an indestructible foundation and a never-ending source of hope.
His Church is us: you and me, and all our faithful sisters and brothers in every land.
We are the signs and sources of hope to the world.  
Through us, His Church, God announces that He is never absent and forever at work in our world, even in the midst of the world's woes and problems. 
You and I must be sources of hope now, in our time!   How?  
How can we live in hope so that we are able to give hope to others? 
First, we must draw hope from the well for ourselves.  
Where do we find that well? 
In the glory and joy awaiting us in our future life with Christ in his heavenly kingdom!  
That joy and glory are so surpassing, they cannot be contained or held back! 
They are  already spilling over from our future life, already being reflected in the present moment, now, in us!  
The whole intention of the Church's hope focuses upon Christ's return. It is a future near at hand. 
We are expecting it. We anticipate it so dearly, that we keep ourselves vigilant and patient, so we may be permeated by hope. 
That hope permeates the entire Church, all of us, because the Holy Spirit fills each of us. 
The Holy Spirit in us desires to fill us with faith, and hope, and love.
We can stimulate that hope within us by living in ways that lead us to offer ourselves to do the will of God. 
We provoke that hope by lives of chastity and purity in all we say, do , feel and think.
We can energize that hope within us by living lives of fidelity to prayer and to reading God's promises given us in the scriptures.    
We need to remind ourselves, excite ourselves, renew our hope by entering with the Holy Spirit into the Scriptures again and again, growing progressively deeper and more intimate with the Lord as He reveals Himself to us through His Sacred Word.
We also bring our hope to life by our mutual forgiveness of each other,  by our mutual love and concern and self-sacrifice for each other. 
And, we especially re-fuel our hope whenever we gather together to partake of The Lord's Supper, celebrate the Holy Eucharist, which unites us as members of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth. 
“United we stand!” “All gave some; Christ gave everything.”  “Never forget!”
Never forget the victims: those who died ten years ago – and the many spiritual victims living among us --  starving to death spiritually since 2001.  Spiritual starvation is the result of lost hope. Our Lord Jesus commands us to revive these victims, and renew them.  
To accomplish this, we must first draw hope from the well for ourselves.  
Then, we pour out that hope into other people's lives -- and do it with joy and with the utmost patience, even in times of hardship and suffering -- because, hope is our response to God's promises given in Jesus Christ. 
Our saving Lord promises us in Saint John's Gospel [14:1-6]
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in Me. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  ... I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
Our hope springs eternally from the security of knowing that God is loving us and sending us -- in faith and with hope -- to love His fearful and starving children.
Through His Holy Catholic Church, Our Lord Jesus is with us, right now, as He promised He always would be. 
We can look forward to the future with the hope of rising again -- rising in triumph from any terrorist attacks and warfare and losses — rising to new, transfigured life with Christ. 
Remember those mottoes: “God Bless America!”  “United We Stand.”  “Some Gave All; All Gave Some.”  “Never Forget.”  
And never forget the motto above all those others: the motto of Our Lord and our Church:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in Me.  ... I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Catholics Should Routinely Disobey The Law Of Inertia

"No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined." (Luke 5:33-39)

Few of us like changes in our lifestyles. We simply don't like being rooted out of our old ways of doing things.  We tend to obey the law of inertia. 

Inertia is any object's resistance to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. 

Our Lord Jesus knows us well, and knows the effects of Original Sin in our human nature.  We resist changing.  We desire to remain undisturbed, comfortably doing what we've been doing.  "And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'"

Our Lord Jesus addresses this sinful law of inertia by a parable about wineskins.  He tells us that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins because –- while the new wine continues to ferment (to change) and to produce fermentation gases inside the old wineskins –- the old wineskins will burst, because they are unable to expand.  So, He concludes, "... new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins."

The Lord Jesus' lesson for us, is that we must maintain a spiritual flexibility and elasticity in our lives, and be open to growth.  We must be willing and able to expand.  We've got to fight that sinful law of inertia within us. 

Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, “To grow, means to have changed.  And to reach perfection, to which we are all called, means to have changed many times.”

Change demands adjustment, and this can be difficult, uncomfortable, and demanding.

Life is full of growing pains, yet we must go through them in order to reach maturity. We really mature when we arrive at knowing ourselves in the manner in which God knows us.

The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament of change, of transformation. 
The main purpose of the Eucharist is to transform us into Christlike, Godlike people.  

If we are receiving the Eucharist worthily and regularly, the Body and Blood of Christ we receive will lead us to act, think, feel, perceive, and speak more and more like Our Lord Jesus, because it is He who is in the Holy Communion we partake of.

God wills that we should change ourselves for the better -- that is, to become more and more like His Son, Our Lord Jesus. 

And, so, you and I must learn to be supple vessels in His Hands.  We've got to be prepared to undergo purifications of our soul –- purifications that may be painful.  These are necessary labor pains before giving birth to the new man- or woman-in-Christ that God wants us to be.

This is why Catholics must disobey the sinful law of inertia.  Instead, we must maintain a flexibility and elasticity in our lives, and be open to growth, revision, and adaptation.  Because, to grow  means to  change.  And to reach perfection in Christ Jesus -- to which He calls us -- means we will have changed many times.

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.