Monday, January 30, 2012

Pope: In The Logic Of God, Authority Means Service, Not Power

VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2012 (VIS ANG/ VIS 20120130 (570) )
During his weekly Angelus Prayer with pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square on Sunday, January 29, 2012, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, introduced the prayer with some brief remarks on today's Gospel reading in which St. Mark relates Jesus' teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum, and the healing of a man with an "unclean spirit" who recognizes the Messiah.

   "Within a short time", the Pope explained, "Jesus' fame began to spread in the region, throughout which he travelled announcing the Kingdom of God and healing sick people of all kinds: word and action. ... The words Jesus addresses to mankind give direct access to the Father's will and to the truth about ourselves" while, moreover, "Jesus united the effectiveness of the Word with those signs of deliverance from evil. ... Divine authority ... is the power of God's love which created the universe and, becoming incarnate in the only-begotten Son, descended upon our humanity and healed the world corrupted by sin".

  "For man", the Holy Father observed, "authority often means possession, power, dominion, success. For God, however, authority means service, humility, love. It means entering into the logic of Jesus Christ Who leans down to wash the feet of His disciples, Who seeks man's authentic good, Who heals wounds, Who is capable of a love so great as to give His life, because He is Love. ... Let us trustingly invoke Most Holy Mary that she may guide our hearts always to draw from the well of divine mercy, which liberates and heals our human condition, filling it with all grace and benevolence, with the power of love".

  After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in various languages.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Benedict XVI: In Vast Areas Of The Earth The Faith Risks Being Extinguished, Like A Flame Without Fuel

VATICAN CITY, 27 JAN 2012 (VIS AC/ VIS 20120127 (710))

On Friday morning, January 27, 2012, in the Vatican, the Pope Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whom he thanked for their service to the Church, particularly in view of the forthcoming Year of Faith. "As we know", he said in his remarks to them, "in vast areas of the earth the faith risks being extinguished, like a flame without fuel. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today. The renewal of faith must, then, be a priority for the entire Church in our time. I hope that the 'Year of Faith' may contribute ... to restoring God's presence in this world, and to giving man access to the faith, enabling him to entrust himself to the God Who, in Jesus Christ, loved us to the end".

  All this, Benedict XVI explained, is closely associated with the question of Christian unity, and he turned to consider certain doctrinal issues related to the Church's ecumenical journey. "Today", he said, "we see the many good fruits that have emerged from ecumenical dialogue. Yet we must also recognize that the risks of indifference and of false Irenicism [peaceful or conciliatory means in dealing with Church matters, particularly in the field of Christian unity, as distinct from polemics or controversy. It does not imply a dilution or diminution of the truth in order to secure a solution to thorny problems (New Catholic Encyclopedia)], completely alien to the mindset of Vatican Council II, require us to be vigilant. Such indifference is caused by the increasingly widespread opinion that truth is not accessible to man and that, therefore, we must limit ourselves to finding rules to improve this world. In this scenario, faith comes to be replaced by a shallow-rooted moralism. By contrast, the core of true ecumenism is faith, in which man encounters the truth revealed in the Word of God. Without faith the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a kind of 'social contract' to which we adhere out of shared interests. The logic of Vatican Council II was quite different", holding that "the sincere search for the full unity of all Christians is a dynamic process animated by the Word of God".

  The Holy Father went on to highlight a "crucial problem running through all ecumenical dialogue: ... the question of the structure of revelation; that is, the relationship between Holy Scripture, the living tradition of Holy Church and the ministry of the successors of the Apostles as witness of the true faith. It is vital to discern between Tradition and traditions", he said. One important step in this direction has been the recent implementation of measures concerning groups of Anglican faithful who wish to enter into communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining their own traditions. "There exists, in fact, a spiritual richness in the carious Christian confessions, which is an expression of the one faith and a gift to be shared", the Pope said.

  The methodology followed in the various forms of ecumenical dialogue must also reflect the priority of the faith. "Even controversial issues must be faced courageously, while always maintaining a spirit of fraternity and mutual respect. Moreover, it is important to offer a correct interpretation of that 'hierarchy of truths' in Catholic doctrine, as defined in the Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio'".

  On the subject of the documents that have emerged from various ecumenical dialogues, the Pope explained that "they are the important, though provisional, fruits of shared reflections". But he also pointed out that "they must be given their correct status as contributions presented to the competent authorities of the Church, which alone is called to pass definitive judgement on them".

  Benedict XVI also referred to the moral issue, saying: "In our dialogues we cannot overlook the great moral questions about human life, the family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace. It is important to speak on these issues with a single voice, drawing on the fundamentals contained in Scripture and in living tradition. ... By defending the fundamental values of the great tradition of the Church, we defend man and we defend the creation".

  In conclusion, the Holy Father reaffirmed that unity is "a means towards, almost a precondition for, the increasingly credible announcement of the faith to people who do not yet know the Savior".

How The Mass Media Reported On The 2012 March For Life

Hey, Academicians!
Here's a great article -- though a little cheeky -- on the Bad Catholic blog.
The article is about the mass media and their brainless, anti-Life and anti-Church operating principle in covering the 2012 March For Life.  

There's also a great video of the entire Pro Life March using time-lapse photography!

Take a look!

Pope Benedict To Seminarians: Priests Should Promote Holiness In Their Own Lives

VATICAN CITY, January 26 2012 (Vatican Information Service  AC/VIS 20120126 (480)) - 
This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received superiors and seminarians from three Italian regional pontifical seminaries in Assisi, Catanzaro and Naples. All of these institutions, as the Pope remarked in his address to the group, are currently celebrating their first centenary having been founded as part of efforts towards the reformation of priestly education carried out under Popes Leo XIII and St. Pius X. 

"Bringing diocesan seminaries together into regional seminaries, and the reform of theological studies, produced a notable improvement in quality", Pope Benedict noted. "In this, an important role was played by the Society of Jesus", the Jesuits, to whom the new regional seminaries were entrusted.

  Even today regional seminaries remain important as they allow access to higher education and contribute to the communion of dioceses, "favoring knowledge, capacity for collaboration and the enrichment of ecclesial experience among future priests. The regional dimension is also an appropriate middle way between the needs of the universal Church and the requirements of local areas".

  Referring to the seminarians' formation, Benedict XVI highlighted how today's cultural context calls for "solid education in philosophy and theology". Future priests must, he said, "understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people's questions. ... And the study of theology must always have an intense bond to the life of prayer. ... It is, in fact, vital that the multiple activities of a priest's ministry be harmoniously integrated with his spiritual life.

  "It is important", the Holy Father added, "for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated". For this reason, the Pope said, great attention must be given to "the human dimension when forming candidates to the priesthood. It is, in fact, in our humanity that we present ourselves before God, in order to appear before our fellows as authentic men of God. Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a 'man of God'. ... It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ".

  In conclusion, the Holy Father quoted a phrase of John XXII: "Even more than cultured, eloquent, up-to-date priests, what we need are saintly and sanctifying priests". These words, Benedict XVI explained, "are still valid today because the entire Church, and the regions from which you come, have more need than ever of workers of the Gospel, people who give credible witness and promote sanctity with their own lives".

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Lesson Of Saint Paul’s Conversion: We Must Stop Trying To Convert Christ

The Conversion of Saint Paul by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

From The Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his  journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  He said, “Who are you, sir?”  The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.  For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”  He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”  The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.  He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,  and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said,  “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.
 He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.  All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

When you look at St. Paul, and at his letters, and his life, and missions, do you ever feel like saying, "Christ tagged the perfect man for the job when he tagged Saul -- obedient, really grasping God's plan." 

If you do feel that way, then you've got the wrong man!  You're not talking about Saul.  You're talking about the man who emerged  from that incident on the road to Damascus, re-named Paul

Saul had all of reality defined: God, the Jews and Gentiles, the world, and the heretics following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This man, Saul, was self-assured. Sallying forth, leading a holy crusade for God and the Law. Saul was sure about everything. Except for that memory haunting him: the look of peace and forgiveness on the face of Stephen the heretic, as he was stoned to death. That memory made Saul feel hungry inside. Saul saw Someone else in Stephen’s face, and heard Someone else speaking to him in Stephen’s voice.   Saul was hungry -- for God. God was calling Saul’s name from eternity. But Saul kept feeding himself on empty definitions of God, instead of the true experience of God's love and mercy in Our Lord Jesus. 

When Saul experienced that vision of the Risen Jesus, and fell to the ground, it wasn't merely a physical tumble. Saul’s concepts of God, of himself, of judging, of salvation -- of everything --  were shattered by encountering and finally experiencing the one, true God in Jesus the Christ.  But the fall to the ground wasn't the signal that Saul had been converted to Paul. Not yet! It was only the beginning of a process that would continue to convert Saul until his death.  

The Conversion of St Paul,
Ananias Restoring Sight

by Benjamin West
Saul-the-proud began that process of conversion by experiencing the humiliation of being led by the hand – like the humiliation of Christ being led to the cross.  Saul stayed blind, with his reality shattered, for three days -- like Christ in the tomb -- until Ananias was sent by the Lord.  Ananias led Saul out from his blind definitions, into the true light of Christ’s definitions of salvation and who will receive it.   When "things like scales fell from his eyes," Saul’s personal scales of judgment also fell to the ground and shattered.  Saul finally saw -- and accepted the reality-- that he was wrong about Jesus and about those who followed Jesus.  

Saul’s conversion experience continued all his life. Somewhere along the line, Paul overtook Saul and remained.  And then Paul, the new man in Christ, continued on that ongoing trip of conversion!

Just because we attend Mass on Sundays or every day does not mean that we are fully converted to Christ.  We are all, very much, like Saul.  All of us have many parts of ourselves that still stubbornly resist God's call and stubbornly refuse to be converted. We’re blinded by our own lights.   We all have our "absolutely-right-and-can't-be-wrong" definitions about God, Jesus, ourselves, and others.  

Have we fully experienced God -- or just our safe definitions of God and our calling ourselves by the demands we want to be called by?

  • Jesus Christ converts us, we don't convert Jesus Christ.  
  • Jesus Christ defines us, we don't define Jesus Christ.  
  • Jesus Christ defines us to be His people on his terms, not on ours. 

So, it seems, you and I are like Saul in many ways. We still must be converted in so many ways. 

Thank God we have God's Words in Scripture.  
Thank God we have the Eucharist -- along with Saint Paul’s prayers to help us!  
Thank God that we have the graced opportunity, every day, to be like Ananias to each other, helping each other recover our sight, by allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be continually converted. 

Ananias said, “Saul, my brother, regain your sight. ... Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.”  Ananias, in the Holy Spirit, led Saul to the truth about Our Lord Jesus and about the Jews and Gentiles following Our Lord Jesus. 

May the Eucharist we receive convert the murderous Saul within us, into the loving Paul -- by helping us see and accept Christ’s definition of who we are, and not our own.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Epiphany: What stars are we following to chart the course of our lives?

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel."  Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage."  After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
The Holy Gospel According To Saint Matthew (2:1-12)

What "stars" are we following to chart the course of our lives?

Once upon a time, there was a boy named "Johnny."
His family consisted of his mother and father and himself.  

His father was a common laborer who could barely provide for his family.
His mother was chronically ill, constantly in need of medical care that the family could hardly afford.
Life was a succession of small apartments, meager meals, second and third-hand furniture, and hand-me-down clothes from friends and neighbors.

All the boy wanted to do was escape his poverty -- and he did.
He focused on school and work. With craftiness and luck, he rapidly worked his way up the corporate ladder, amassing an impressive fortune along the way.

Along that way, his mother’s illnesses brought about her death.
Because he was ashamed of his parents and their poverty, he deliberately kept away from his father -- only phoning him on rare occasions, never going to visit him.

By the age of forty, he had realized the American dream: a prestigious position with a New York investment firm, a beautiful home and family, and more than enough money to live securely and comfortably all his days. The poverty of his childhood was but a faded memory.
Then his father died. As far as he was concerned, his father died a failure.

Weeks after his father's death, he went to the small, rundown apartment where his father had lived alone. He was embarrassed by the old rickety furniture, the stained and faded walls, the few possessions that comprised his father's "estate."

In the bedroom closet, he found a box marked “Christmas Stuff.”  Inside he found the papier-mâché angel that crowned their small Christmas tree every year; the construction paper ornaments he and his mother had crafted together; the glass bulbs and bells; the strings of lights; and, wrapped in faded newspaper, the pieces of the family's manger scene. For a few moments he was a boy again, reliving the joy of those Christmases -- when he was still too young to realize how poor his family was. As he returned each item to the box, an incredible sadness overcame him.
Then he discovered an envelope taped to the bottom of the manger. Inside was a letter written in his father's hand. It was dated "Christmas 1955." The letter began with his father's usually greeting: "Hi, Johnny."  
I'm your daddy. I've waited so long to say that. How can I describe what it means to be your daddy? Words don't come easily to me, but here goes. Johnny, to be your daddy means picking you up when you fall and holding you when you are afraid. Being your daddy means loving you just because you are my son, the best part of who I am. There's so much in my heart, so many dreams for you. You have brought joy into our lives, a joy that your mom and I thought we'd never know.Johnny, a few weeks before your mom and I were married, the doctors gave us the sad news that, because of Mom's many physical problems, we could never have a child of our own. We were crushed. Every morning and every night, we prayed on our knees asking God for a miracle. Months turned into years and then, much to everyone's surprise, you were born at 12:01 A.M. on December 8th. Because of you, Christmas carries a special meaning for us.Son, I'll never be rich. But I believe that if God could help us find our way to you, God will carry us every step of the way. We'll always have each other and that's more than I ever hoped for, much more than I probably deserve. Some day, Johnny, you'll understand how I'm feeling. Just keep in mind who you are, where you've come from, and how much you are loved.Hold the blessings of Christmas close to your heart, because you are one of them. You are forever our miracle child.
Love, Daddy.
Johnny sat there in tears, clutching the most valuable piece of paper he had every held. 
He realized how rich his parents were -- and how poor he had become.
What "stars" are we following to chart the course of our lives?
Like the three Magi's search for Our Lord Jesus, the newborn king of the Jews, our lives are a constant search for meaning, for purpose, for God – and – for the things of God.
The Epiphany Gospel of Saint Matthew asks us to consider the "stars" we are following to navigate our lives: 
  • Do we navigate by the "stars" that lead us to wealth, to power, to prestige -- "stars"  that change, move beyond us so we can’t keep up with them – "stars" which eventually flame out of the sky altogether?
  • Or do we navigate our lives on the stars of God: peace, compassion, mercy, justice, forgiveness?
It is never too late to discover, as "Johnny" discovered late in HIS life's journey, that the true treasures of life are only found in the things of God.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pope Encountered Over Two Million People In 2011

VATICAN CITY, 3 JAN 2012 (VIS PD/ VIS 20120103 (180) )
The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household has published a communique announcing that, during the course of 2011, 2,553,800 faithful participated in various meetings with Benedict XVI including:

  • General audiences (400,000 people)
  • Private audiences (101,800 people)
  • Liturgical celebrations (846,000 people)
  • Angelus and Regina Coeli (1,206,000 people). 

  These statistics show an increase with respect to the last three years, and refer only to meetings that took place in the Vatican or at Castelgandolfo.

  The statistics do not include the many thousands of faithful who came to see the Holy Father on his journeys in Italy or abroad.

  The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household explains that the numbers are approximate, calculated on the basis of requests to participate in meetings with the Pope and on the tickets distributed, as well as on estimations of people present at events such as the Angelus or large celebrations in St. Peter's Square. The single event which brought together the largest number of faithful was the beatification of John Paul II on 1 May.

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.