Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sede Vacante and Benedict XVI's Legacy

Seal of the Sede Vacante
As a Church we unite in prayer as we enter into that solemn period in which our Holy See is vacant.  We pray for our holy cardinals (especially our Cardinal Camerlengo, Tarcisio Bertone) who have been entrusted the Holy See, until one among them is chosen to shepherd the Church as our Holy Father.

Now in sede vacante, I think it is appropriate to reflect on the legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Reflecting on his legacy reminds us of the holy mission Benedict began as pope and helps us to pray for a new pope who will continue that mission, strongly rooted in tradition and scripture.

The video below explains the legacy of Benedict XVI, especially the role he played in the Second Vatican Council.  The video explains well Benedict XVI's interpretation of the post-conciliar Church. (I am aware that I am blogging about the touchiest of topics, Vatican II, being just a Catholic Jedi rookie with only a few posts to my name... gutsy I know).

Non Habemus Papam

God be with you.

Adieu, Holy Father...Some Memories

A short compilation of images from audiences with Pope Benedict XVI we were privileged to attend (plus a few images from the televised final audience).  The beautiful music is from the choir at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York.   Tu es Petrus, indeed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Will Miss You. We Love You. We Are So Grateful

Photo taken by Christopher Heller, July 2012 
Sunday Angelus at Castel Gandolfo

Danke, Heiliger Vater!

Humble, holy, devout, scholarly, and inspirational are just a few words that have been thrown around in the past few weeks, following the Holy Father's initial announcement of his resignation.  Yet what can we say to such an amazing man, the Vicar of Christ, who has led his Church with so much faith and love over the past seven years?  For an overwhelming number of Catholics a simple Thank You will do the trick.

Reflecting on Pope Benedict's papacy, it struck me that throughout my entire life as an active (that is seriously practicing) Catholic, Benedict has been my Pontiff.  He is the one who has inspired me to search deeper into my faith and to seek the truth through Church Tradition and Scripture.  He has been a huge part of my life as well as an indirect teacher and mentor.  He has been a holy shepherd that has spread the love of Christ to each of his faithful, and for that I am truly thankful.  

So Thank You Holy Father for your:

We will keep you in our prayers; confident that we will be in yours...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thank You, Holy Father.

A moving video tribute to Pope Benedict XVI from young people around the world:

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Look At the Conclave Guest House

Once before on this blog, I had mentioned that on a trip to Rome in 2010 I was privileged to stay at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in Vatican City.  This is the same guest house where the cardinal electors will be staying during the upcoming conclave.  Needless to say it was quite a thrill... a once in a lifetime experience.

When we drove through the gate into Vatican City and up to the door of the "Domus", as it's called, I had to pinch myself - it all seemed so unreal.  The guest house itself is very simple and matter of fact.  The rooms are small suites with a twin bed in one section and a desk and bookshelves on the other side.  Here are a couple of pictures of the room I had during my stay:

The main floor of the guest house is also rather spartan.  There are no seats in the lobby.  No real place to congregate and chat with one another.  Waiting for others in my little group was always done standing up.  Perhaps they did not want to impede the flow of traffic by putting chairs in the way.

Off of the lobby is a small chapel where daily Mass is offered by visiting prelates and also by some resident priests who work in the Vatican.  I guess those priests will have to find quarters elsewhere during the conclave.   Also adjoining the lobby is the dining room which was very busy every morning, afternoon and evening.  Different groups of bishops and clergy visiting the Vatican were constantly coming and going during our nine day stay.

One of the very high closets - definitely cassock length

A painting of Pope Benedict in the lobby

We were told that Pope John Paul II had the Domus constructed so that the Cardinal electors would have a comfortable place to stay during a Conclave.  The rooms certainly were comfortable, the meals were delicious and the location could not have been better.  The front door of the guest house is directly across from the back of St Peter's.  Each morning we walked into a back door of the basilica to attend Mass offered by the priest who was with our group.  I guess it won't be as convenient for the Cardinals since they will have to walk or be driven to the Sistine Chapel which is on the complete opposite side of the Vatican (but, maybe they know a shortcut!).

During our stay, I told myself that I would pray for the Cardinal who would be staying in that room during the next Conclave.  Little did I know that it would come so soon.  May that Cardinal and all of the other Cardinal electors be filled with the grace, peace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit as they come together in the coming days to elect our new pope.

View from front door of Domus looking toward
 Vatican gas station and Vatican train station

View of St. Peter's from front door of Domus
We'll miss you, Holy Father, but so grateful for  having you
for these past 8 years!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Here's Another Example Of Why I'll Miss Benedict XVI: His Teaching On Temptation During His February 17th Audience

I am going to miss Pope Benedict's incomparable gifts as a teacher of the Catholic Faith.  Clarity. Simplicity. Directness.  The synopsis of his teaching from his second-to-last audience on February 17th is a perfect example.  Please do read his instruction below on Temptation and how we turn God into some form of  utility for our own selfish, sinful advantages.
I was looking at the photo above. Gee, he really has lost weight.  And his eyes reveal his great fatigue.  Yet, he gave the Audience and gave it his all.  God love the man!
Vatican City, 17 February 2013 (VIS) – More than one hundred and fifty thousand people attended Benedict XVI's second-to-last Angelus in St. Peter's Square today. The Pope, who appeared at the window of his study at noon, focuses his Sunday meditation on Lent, "a time of conversion and penitence in preparation for Easter."

"The Church, who is mother and teacher," he said, "calls on all of her members to renew their spirit, to reorient themselves toward God, renouncing pride and selfishness in order to live in love. In this Year of Faith, Lent is a favourable time to rediscover faith in God as the fundamental criterion of our lives and the life of the Church. This always implies a struggle, spiritual combat, because the spirit of evil, naturally, opposes our sanctification and tries to turn us from God's path. … Jesus, after having received 'investiture' as the Messiah?'anointed' by the Spirit?at his Baptism in the Jordan, was led by the same Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. On beginning his public ministry, Jesus had to unmask and reject the false images of the Messiah proposed to him by the tempter. But these temptations are also the false images of humanity that have always harassed our consciences, disguising themselves as convenient and effective, even good proposals."

"The core of these temptations," Benedict XVI explained, "always consists in instumentalizing God for our own interests, giving more importance to success or material goods. The tempter is sly: he doesn't push us directly toward evil, but toward a false good, making us believe that power and that which satisfies our basic needs are the true realities. In this way, God becomes secondary; He is reduced to a means, becomes unreal, no longer counts, disappears. In the final analysis, faith is what is at stake in temptation because God is at stake. In the decisive moments of our lives, but on closer inspection in every moment, we are faced with a choice: do we want to follow the 'I' or God? Do we want to seek out selfish interests or the true Good, that which is truly good?"

"As the Church Fathers teach us, temptation forms part of Jesus' 'descent' into our human condition, into the abyss of sin and its consequences. It is a descent that Jesus follows to its very end, even to death on the cross and the hell of extreme distance from God. … As St. Augustine teaches, Jesus has taken temptation from us in order to give us victory over it. Therefore we too have no fear of facing the battle against the spirit of evil. What is important is that we face it with him, with Christ the Victor," the pontiff concluded.

After the Marian prayer the Pope thanked everyone for their prayers and affection, which he has felt in these days. "I ask," he said, "that you continue to pray for me and for the next Pope, as well as for the spiritual exercises that I will begin with the members of the Roman Curia this afternoon." He also greeted the "beloved city of Rome", seeing that among those filling St. Peter's Square there was a delegation from the municipality headed by the mayor.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thoughts on the Pope's Angelus

This picture says it all:

Via Vatican Radio's Facebook page

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"I, Retired In Prayer, WIll Always Be With You..."

The pope gave his planned address to the clergy of Rome today.  In his talk, the Holy Father reminisced on his time as an adviser at the Second Vatican Council (the full article can be found here at Vatican Radio).  Ever the teacher, Benedict reflected on the true workings and thoughts of the Council fathers in his address:

The Holy Father then recalled the essential ideas of the Council: especially the paschal mystery as a centre of Christian existence, and therefore of Christian life, as expressed in Easter and Sunday, which is always the day of the Resurrection, "over and over again we begin our time with the Resurrection, with an encounter with the Risen One. " In this sense - he observed - it is unfortunate that today, Sunday has been transformed into the end of the week, while it is the first day, it is the beginning: "inwardly we must bear in mind this is the beginning, the beginning of Creation, the beginning of the re-creation of the Church, our encounter with the Creator and with the Risen Christ. " The Pope stressed the importance of this dual content of Sunday: it is the first day, that is the feast of the Creation, as we believe in God the Creator, and encounter with the Risen One who renews Creation: "its real purpose is to create a world which is a response to God's love. "
The Council also pondered the principals of the intelligibility of the Liturgy - instead of being locked up in an unknown language, which was no longer spoken - and active participation. "Unfortunately – he said - these principles were also poorly understood." In fact, intelligibility does not mean "banalizing" because the great texts of the liturgy - even in the spoken languages ​​ - are not easily intelligible, "they require an ongoing formation of the Christian, so that he may grow and enter deeper into the depths of the mystery, and thus comprehend". And also concerning the Word of God - he asked - who can honestly say they understand the texts of Scripture, simply because they are in their own language? "Only a permanent formation of the heart and mind can actually create intelligibility and participation which is more than one external activity, which is an entering of the person, of his or her being into communion with the Church and thus in fellowship with Christ."

Tu Es Petrus

Tu Es Petrus....You Are Peter.  The Sistine Chapel choir sang this piece by Palestrina as the Holy Father was leaving the Basilica of St. Peter for the last time as pope.  I dare to think that the angels were joining in.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Applause and Tears at the Pope's Final Public Mass

Ash Wednesday was the final public liturgy celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.  There was a prolonged ovation at the end and the final procession out of the basilica showed many in the congregation in tears, including and, perhaps, especially Bishop Georg Ganswein, secretary to the Holy Father.  It was hard not to share the emotion, the sorrow, and the gratitude.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"...A Decision of Great Courage and Humility"

Those are the words of Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff regarding Pope Benedict XVI's surprise announcement that he will be stepping down as Supreme Pontiff.  And I couldn't agree more.  (And I note from Father Reynolds' post below, that he feels the same way, too).

What a holy and humble man we have had as our pope these past several years.  While I am still a little shocked and definitely saddened at the loss of such a holy father, I am also so grateful for the gift of his years of sacrificial service and gentle guidance.  That he will be living in a monastery, devoted to a life of prayer, gives me such peace knowing that we will have his continuing spiritual presence with us, interceding for the Church and for us all.

There are so many comments, reflections, analyses buzzing around the airwaves and the internet that I thought I would distill a few of them here.

First, the Holy Father had left some hints that he might step down in some of his past comments and actions.  One of those was in an interview with the German writer Peter Seewald where the Holy Father said that it was possible for a pope to step down if he was no longer able to physically fulfill his duties.  The Vatican alludes to that comment on its own website here.

The pope also did something very interesting in 2009...he visited the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V in Aquila, Italy.  Pope Celestine was an elderly pope who assumed his duties and then stepped down to resume a life of monastic prayer and simplicity.  When Pope Benedict visited the tomb, he left his pallium there.  The pallium that is the symbol of his authority as supreme pontiff.  Many people thought this was a sign of the pope's closeness to his predecessor who had undergone a similar ordeal of leading the church at an advanced age.  Professor Scott Hahn writes of this incident here.

Pope Benedict XVI's Pallium left at tomb of Pope St. Celestine V
It also struck me that the Pope made his announcement on February 11th, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the observance of the World Day of the Sick.  I am sure that the love and motherly intercession of Our Lady is helping him through this difficult time.

In closing, the words of Cardinal Sodano, the dean of the college of cardinals, beautifully summarize the feeling of so many of us:

"We have heard you with a sense of astonishment, almost in disbelief.  In your words, we have noticed the big affection that you have always had towards God's Holy Church, for this Church that you have always the name of your dear collaborators, we are closer, more than ever, just as we have been in these bright eight years of your pontificate."
"The stars in the sky will continue to shine and your pontificate will always shine like them among us..."
God bless you, Papa Benedict.  Thank you.

Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation: "But No Less With Prayer And Suffering"

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. 
"However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Resignation announcement February 11, 2013

Of the many obligations and realities which come with being a Pope, the Successor of Saint Peter,  I would imagine that many people never consider the sufferings which come with fulfilling that ministry as Pontifex (Latin for “bridge builder”), the man who must bridge the gaps and maintain the connections to all people in God's holy Church  and to all people in the world.

The sufferings: 

  • Constant and unrelenting pressure:  Meetings. Audiences. Knowing and speaking several languages. Traveling the world. Preparing speeches, homilies and communiques the whole world will hear or read. Having little privacy amid the settled and self-propelled hustle and centuries-old habits of the Papal household. Fatigue. Stress. Sleepless nights. Medical and health problems. 
  • Fear:  Fear of failing the Lord. Fear of damaging the unity of the Church.  Fear of your personal sinfulness and character defects being used by the Devil to trip you up.
  • Loneliness: like the Lord Jesus' agony as he prayed alone in the garden of Gethsemane. The unique isolation of being the man chosen by Christ to carry, literally, the weight of the world in your heart and mind.  The unfulfilled disappointment you feel when you recall your hopes of where you thought you would be and what you hoped you would be doing when you reached retirement age.

A younger man fulfills this vocation with difficulty.  An 85-year-old man must suffer greatly when he realizes that he is not satisfactorily fulfilling his role, and will not be able to continue because of physical weakness and deteriorating health.  

A decision to resign for the good of the Church took great humility and great courage.

I have placed great confidence in the words and deeds of this man, Josef Ratzinger, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I have found it easy to trust him and to support him.  And I can only admire him for his honesty and humility.  And I am, selfishly, weeping a little, because I want more of his tenure, more of his wisdom, more of his grandfatherly encouragement.

When I was studying in Rome 33-years-ago, many mornings, while walking to classes at the Gregorian University, my classmates and I would see Cardinal Josef Ratzinger passing through Saint Peter's Square at a distance, near the Colonnade, as he walked to his office.  We would wave, and shout "Buongiorno! (good morning)"  And he would wave back and also wish us a "buongiorno.

Now, 33-years-later, you and I see him as Pope Benedict XVI passing through Saint Peter's Square, waving to us at a distance as he passes through, and leaving us with his assurances that he has done his best, and that Our Lord Jesus will take care of everything.  

God bless him!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blessed Virgin Shows Us: Only Evil The Church Must Fear Is The Sin Of Her Members

On December 8, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI made his way to Piazza di Spagna in Rome for the traditional act of veneration of the image of the Virgin Mary on the column situated in front of the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See.

  Once in the square, the Pope began by offering a prayer, followed by a reading from the Revelation of St. John, a homily, and the offering of a floral tribute to the image of the Virgin.

  In his homily, the Pope explained that the text from the Revelation, which speaks of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and a garland of twelve stars upon her head, refers both to the Virgin and to the Church. In part, "the woman of the Apocalypse is Mary ... the symbol of the luminous robe clearly expressed a condition referring to Mary in all her being: She is 'full of grace', filled with the love of God".

  The moon beneath her feet symbolises death: "Mary is fully linked to the victory of Jesus Christ, her Son, over sin and death... just as death has no power over Christ resurrected, so by the grace and singular privilege of omnipotent God, Mary overcomes death. This is made manifest in the two great mysteries of her existence: at the beginning, the conception without original sin, the mystery we celebrate today; and at the end, her assumption in body and soul in Heaven".

  The garland of twelve stars "represents the twelve tribes of Israel, and indicates that Mary is at the centre among the people of God, in full communion with the saints. And thus, this image ... brings us to the second grand interpretation of the celestial sign of the "woman clothed with the sun":  as well as representing the Virgin, this sign indicates the Church. She is with child, in the sense that she carries Christ in her womb and will give birth to him on earth ... and it is precisely for this reason, that She carries Christ, that the Church meets the opposition of a fierce adversary, represented by a dragon which seeks to destroy the son, but in vain as Jesus, through death and resurrection, ascends to God. Therefore the dragon, defeated once and for all in heaven, turns to attack the woman - the Church - in the desert of earth. But in every age the light and strength of God have supported the Church ... and thus, through all the trials She encounters over time and all over the world, the Church suffers persecution but is always victorious".

  "The only evil that the Church must fear is that sin of Her members. While indeed Mary was Immaculate, free of any stain of sin, the Church is holy but at the same time marked by our sins. Therefore the People of God, as pilgrims throughout time, turn to their celestial  Mother and seek Her help; they ask that she might accompany them on their path of faith, that She might encourage them in their commitment to Christian life and sustain their hopes.  Mary helps us to see that there is light beyond the mantle of fog that appears to obscure reality."
Quotes are cited from Vatican Information Service coverage
of Pope Benedict's visit to Piazza di Spagna
December 8, 2011

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bishop DiMarzio: Those Who Voted For Obama Are Responsible For The Obama Administration's Attack On The Church

The Diocese Of Brooklyn is my home Diocese.  I grew up in it, got ordained for it, and try my best to serve God's People in it.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is the Bishop of our completely urban, "inner-city" Diocese where over fifty languages are spoken.  Our weekly Diocesan newspaper is called The Tablet

In the January 23, 2013 edition of The Tablet, my Bishop tore into the Obama Administration’s attack on the Catholic Church and on the Christian Culture Of Life in the United States. Bishop DiMarzio calls `em as he sees `em.  And he is right on target: 

"In my view, those who voted for President Obama bear the responsibility for a step deeper in the culture of death. Under the cover of women’s issues, we now see an assault on religious freedom and personal conscience."

Here's the rest of his article from The Tablet, Deeper Into The Culture Of Death.

Father Dwight Is Right: It makes me want to puke.

Hello Academicians!

In his Standing On My Head blog, Father Dwight Longenecker posted the following critique of the 400 British members of Parliament who voted to make same-sex "marriage" legal and the law of the land.  

I'm reproducing Father Dwight's post here, for your reading convenience.  I am doing so, because Father Dwight says just about everything I  myself would be saying if I wrote my own post on this sickening subject.  

His final statement at the close of his post also perfectly mirrors my sentiments about this horrendous travesty:"It makes me want to puke."  

British Parliament Redefines Marriage

Today the UK Parliament took the first legal steps to sanction same sex marriage. The implications of their re-definition of marriage are very ominous indeed, and the ignorant arrogance of their lawmakers is breath taking.
Think about it for a moment. Nowhere, not in any time or any place, not in any culture or civilization from the most primitive jungle dwelling tribe to the most sophisticated society has marriage between two people of the same gender ever been contemplated. Some societies have accepted homosexuality or been lenient toward such practices, but no one has ever suggested that marriage could ever be between two men or between two women.
The idea that British lawmakers can take it upon themselves to change such a fundamental understanding of what it means to be human is simply incredible. I realize that they believe they are simply voting on an “equality issue”. This is not so. They have voted on a historic and fundamentally different definition of marriage.  They have not voted to open marriage up. They have voted to destroy marriage.
Already “marriage” in our society is practically meaningless. Easy no fault divorce and multiple marriages, marriages that take place most anywhere with people writing their own ‘vows’ with their own ‘ministers’. The whole thing is a charade–a grotesque and hideous mockery of marriage, and the result will be that marriage will be meaningless. Weddings will be nothing but a sentimental display of self indulgence and the marriage itself will be a sham.
Same sex marriage actually destroys marriage, for in re-defining what marriage is, it is no longer marriage. It is something else. Furthermore, the erosion of marriage into meaningless sentimental clap trap is not only the fault of the gay militants. It is also the fault of those people who break their marriage vows, divorce and then re-marry. It is also the fault of all those who co-habitate and then turn up at church anyway for their wonderful wedding. It is also the fault of all those family members who are too nice to disapprove. It is especially the fault of those so-called Catholics who condone the cohabitation of their family members, smile kindly on the divorced and re married and run rough shod over marriage in every way imaginable.
What no one has stopped to ask is what exactly is marriage in our society now anyway? It is a lifelong commitment? Clearly not. Is it for pro creation? Clearly not. Is it for better for worse, richer or poorer, to love and to cherish til death do us part? Clearly not. So what on earth is marriage anyway and why on earth do homosexual people want to be married? Only because they demand recognition and some sort of false, government mandated "equality.”
It is time now for the Catholic Church to withdraw completely from the civil side of marriage. A man and woman who wish to be married should go to the civil authority to sign necessary papers, then if they want to have a sacramental marriage let them come to the priest.
Most of the Protestant churches have caved on divorce and re-marriage long ago. They will also cave on homosexual marriage. Within a very short time now, the Catholic Church will be the only place to receive a truly Christian wedding.
When the time comes to stand up for marriage as God intended, what I dread is not so much the attacks from those outside the church, but the attacks from those within. Already there are numerous voices among the Catholic clergy who are quietly in favor of homosexual “marriage”–and they will turn their ruthless guns of kindness on all who stand firm.
I can hear them now with their weasly words and their sickly self righteous smiles of artificial kindness, “We really must offer a warm welcome to all of God’s children and grant them the love and acceptance of the sacrament…”
It makes me want to puke.

God at the Super Bowl

A little late to the game, but I just had to post this Ram truck video/advertisement narrated by Paul Harvey, "So, God Made a Farmer."  It's the kind of commercial that used to be common on television.  It speaks to the goodness of the American people, especially the men.  Highlighting their strength of character and determination;  emphasizing the masculinity, reliability and compassion of the farmer without embarrassment.  May this type of message increase and multiply in our culture.  And may the ads that insult and demean the men in our society continue to diminish.  We need strong men.  We need strong families.  We need God.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Please Welcome Our New "Faculty" Member: Christopher Heller

Hello again, Academicians!

Lot's of excitement around here at your beloved Catholic cyberacademy! We have a new "faculty" member who certainly brings down the median age of your loyal bloggers and adds a fresh and enthusiastic dimension to the Catholic Jedi Academy.

Please join us as we welcome our newest "Faculty" Member: Christopher Heller!
Chris is currently a senior at Chaminade High School.  He hopes to attend the Catholic University of America this coming Fall, looking to expand his knowledge of the faith through philosophical and theological studies.  He is an active member of the Catholic League for religious and civil rights, as well as a parishioner at St. Edward the Confessor Parish.   Chris is very excited to join the Catholic Jedi Academy faculty and to bring much youthful enthusiasm to the blogging world.

And, so, thank you to Chris for loaning his considerable talents and insights to our beloved "Academy" blog!

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.