Wednesday 29 June 2016
Tuesday 28 June 2016
Pope Francis on Tuesday hosted a celebration for the 65th anniversary of the priestly ordination of his predecessor Benedict, the pope emeritus. Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI when he was elected to the papacy in 2005, attended the celebration in the Sala Clementina within the Apostolic Palace. More than thirty cardinals were also present, as well as a number of other invited guests.
|POPE BENEDICT WITH MSGR NEWTON|
The event began with music from the Sistine Choir and a speech by Pope Francis. In his remarks, the Supreme Pontiff recalled St Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know that I love you,” answered the first Pope. And this, the current Pope said, “is the note that has dominated a life spent entirely in the service of the priesthood and of the true theology”.
Pope Francis said that Benedict continues to serve the Church, “not ceasing to truly contribute to her growth with strength and wisdom.” “And you do this,” he said, “from that little Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, that is shown in that way to be anything but that forgotten little corner to which today’s culture of waste tends to relegate people when, with age, their strength diminishes.” He spoke, too, about the “Franciscan” dimension of the monastery, which recalls the Portiuncula, the “little portion” where St Francis founded his order, and laid down his life. Divine Providence, he said, “has willed that you, dear Brother, should reach a place one could truly call ‘Franciscan’, from which emanates a tranquillity, a peace, a strength, a confidence, a maturity, a faith, a dedication, and a fidelity that does so much good for me, and gives strength to me and to the whole Church.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Pope Francis offered best wishes to Pope emeritus Benedict on behalf of himself and of the whole Church, with the prayer for Benedict, “That you, Holiness, might continue to feel the hand of the merciful God who supports you; that you might continue to experience and witness to us the love of God; that, with Peter and Paul, you might continue to rejoice with great joy as you journey toward the goal of the faith.”
|Pope Benedict at Westminster Abbey, London|
Later, after more music and speeches by Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Angelo Sodano – respectively Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals – Benedict offered words of thanks to all his well-wishers, and in a particular way to Pope Francis. Speaking to the Holy Father, Benedict said, “Your kindness, from the first moment of the election, in every moment of my life here, strikes me, is a source of real inspiration for me. More than in the Vatican Gardens, with their beauty, your goodness is the place where I dwell: I feel protected.”
The Pope emeritus also reflected on the concept of “thanksgiving,” reflecting on a word written, in Greek, on a remembrance card from his first Mass. That word, he said, suggests “not only human thanksgiving, but naturally hints at the more profound word that is hidden, which appears in the liturgy, in the Scriptures,” and in the words of consecration. The Greek word “eucharistomen,” he said, “brings us back to that reality of thanksgiving, to that new dimension that Christ has given it. He has transformed into thanksgiving, and so into blessing, the Cross, suffering, all the evil of the world. And thus He has fundamentally transubstantiated life and the world, and has given us, and gives us today the Bread of true life, which overcomes the world thanks to the strength of his love.”
Friday 24 June 2016
"I am the king's good servant, but God's first." -- STM
He has cast off the chains of servitude to tyrants and is free to serve only God.
This item was sent along to me as a reminder that the shrine of St. Thomas More is in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula
in the Tower of London.
Wednesday 22 June 2016
Today in Oslo, Norway the VI World Congress Against the Death Penalty opens, organized by NGOs including about 140 organizations from around the world. Pope Francis sent a video message for the occasion. The English transcription of the original Spanish message is found below this is in line with opposition to abortion and assisted suicide. The Church is clearly consistent on all matters relating to human life and needs to affirm that these are all linked under the providence of God.
I greet the organizers of this World Congress against the death penalty, the group of countries supporting it, particularly Norway as its host country, and all those representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society taking part in it. I likewise express my personal appreciation, along with that of men and women of goodwill, for your commitment to a world free of the death penalty.
One sign of hope is that public opinion is manifesting a growing opposition to the death penalty, even as a means of legitimate social defense. Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is an auspicious occasion for promoting worldwide ever more evolved forms of respect for the life and dignity of each person. It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.
Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated. “Rendering justice” does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society. There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.
I trust that this Congress can give new impulse to the effort to abolish capital punishment. For this reason, I encourage all taking part to carry on this great initiative and I assure them of my prayers.
Thursday 16 June 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons Tuesday to vote against a motion declaring that the atrocities of the so-called Islamic State constitute genocide.
Monday 13 June 2016
Following are excerpts from a London Times interview in which the Jewish leader’s criticism of the British government is especially strong in light of the upcoming BREXIT vote.
In the interview Sacks also said: "the government has [not] done enough at all" to encourage marriage, adding it should recognize marriage in the tax system, and also help stay-at-home mothers with childcare subsidies. “The state has an interest in marriage because the cost of family breakdown and non-marriage, the last time I looked at it, was estimated at £9 billion a year,” he said.
On multiculturalism in Britain he said "has had its day and it’s time to move on."
|Rabbi Sacks with former C of E archbishop, Rowan Williams|
Rabbi Sacks advised Muslims in Britain to learn from the Jewish experience of living as a minority in the country, saying that, "the lessons are — number one, you don’t try to impose your views on the majority population. Number two, you have to be what I call bilingual, you know you are Jewish and you’re English… because it forces you to realize that actually society and life is complicated. It mustn’t and can’t be simplified. Number three, there are times when it’s uncomfortable, when you realize there is such a thing as anti-Semitism. [Being] a minority isn’t always fun.”
Thursday 9 June 2016
Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche an international organization of homes for the mentally challenged. He was interviewed by the CBC recently and here are some quotes from him with regard to the assisted suicide legislation being considered by the Liberal Government:
My question is always how to put into legislation certain safeguards. Now, there are people who are terribly lonely. They want to die. So what help is getting to people who feel lonely? And how to think about a society where we're more concerned for each other and trying to love each other and help each other. We're putting a lot in the hands of the medical (community) without putting many safeguards in.
- Jean Vanier
. . . the question is how to encourage palliative care? Because we can move quite quickly into just the rights of a person who's in pain. And so it's really being attentive to those who are in pain, and how can we help people during these periods to die peacefully.
So I hear what you're saying — that everybody is independent. Of course, we're also all interdependent. We need all to be loved, in order to find the beauty of life. And of course, what we see here in all our communities of L'Arche. And people come to us maybe who are quite violent, who are in depression, but then they discover something. They discover that they're loved. Lawmakers should also realize that the human being, we're born in weakness, and we die in weakness. And that we're all vulnerable. And that we all always need help. A society needs to encourage opening up our hearts to those who are weaker and more fragile.
- Jean Vanier
So the "something" in society that's going wrong when we thinking all the time that people have to be perfectly independent, perfectly strong, where in reality, my God, we need each other, we need help, we need good doctors, we need the old people's homes; where there's caring and where there're not just one or two nurses or helpers looking after too many people and nobody has time to listen to each other. There's a fundamental sickness in our society. And how can we, little by little, discover this? To move from the I to the we — we are all fragile, we all need help, and yet at the same time we all have strengths. You see, the extraordinary thing here in L'Arche is that so many people with disabilities — they bring forth within us a capacity to love and to be in communion with one another, and to have fun.
Wednesday 8 June 2016
George Weigel writes this month in FIRST THINGS about the new book by Cardinal Robert Sarah, God or Nothing. The book is selling phenomenally all over the world. It tells the story of a heroic bishop from Guinea and is an invitation to faith, addressed to everyone but perhaps particularly to those in the West.
The cardinal, who was appointed by Pope Francis as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments with the mandate to continue the reform of the liturgical reform accelerated by Benedict XVI, was in Washington recently to address the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Cardinal Sarah is not a showman, but he made a deep impression on the 1,300 in attendance by the depth of his faith and the lucidity of his presentation. He spoke movingly of the solidarity of which human beings are capable because we’re made in the likeness of the original communion of solidarity—the Holy Trinity. And in that context he defended the weakest and most vulnerable among us, in all stages of life, calling his American audience to live the truths on which the nascent nation staked its independence.
He then warned, quite rightly, that the “death of God” too often results, not in God’s burial, but in the “burial of good, beauty, love, and truth” through their inversion: “Good becomes evil, beauty is ugly, love becomes the satisfaction of sexual primal instincts, and truths are all relative.”
This accurate description of one root of today’s culture wars EARNED Cardinal Sarah the usual rebukes in the left-leaning Catholic blogosphere, where that shopworn parade of horribles—Manichaeism, culture-warrior, not-with-the-Pope Francis-program, etc.—was dusted off and trotted out yet again. Ironically, however, Cardinal Sarah’s address and his portside critics’ predictable response more-or-less coincided with a striking blog post by a Harvard Law School professor, Mark Tushnet, who seems not to have gotten the memo from the Catholic left that we should all just get along.
Thus Professor Tushnet, writing in a post entitled “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism”:
The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. . . . For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (‘You lost, live with it’) is better than trying to accommodate the losers who—remember—defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War . . . And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945. . . .
There is intolerant, aggressive, God-burying secularism in a nutshell: Those of us who believe in marriage as it’s been understood for millennia, the right to life of the unborn and the elderly, men using men’s bathrooms, and religious freedom in full are the equivalents of post-Civil War lynch mobs, Nazis, and kamikaze-inducing Japanese militarists. Instead of berating Cardinal Sarah for speaking truth to dominant cultural and political power, might it not behoove his carping critics in the progressive Catholic blogosphere to challenge those in their political camp, like Mark Tushnet, who commit such calumnies—as some of us on the other side of the aisle, so to speak, have challenged the calumnies of Donald Trump? Is there no courage to be different left on the Catholic left?
Leon Trotsky, the old Bolshevik eventually liquidated by Stalin, famously said that “you may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you.” Change “dialectic” to “culture war” and you’ve got the truth of our situation, as Cardinal Sarah understands. Recognizing that truth is the beginning of any serious effort to follow Pope Francis and heal, evangelize, and convert the culture today.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.
Tuesday 7 June 2016
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist and a Protestant Christian offers a reflection on what Blessed Mary means to us as Mother of Christians in her book: The Christmas Virtues: A Treasury of Conservative Tales for the Holidays.
In this excerpt she takes on the glib dismissal of Christian faith by N.Y. Times ‘progressive’ bigots and answers some of the feminist critique of the role of Mary in the “beloved community” - - the Church.
My children shower me with affection, so I have no real reason to go fishing for more love. But I do it anyway. The problem is, when I ask if they love Mommy or Daddy more, they always insist that they love us equally. Sometimes I load the question the way political pollsters do: “Daddy has been working late a lot and sometimes yells at you. Mommy is a great snuggler, makes all your favorite meals, and taught you to ride a bike recently. Who do you love more, Mommy or Daddy?”
But even then, the kids insist they love us both the same. It’s touching. And also infuriating.
Even worse is what they say when I sometimes fight for a World’s Greatest Mom trophy. (Don’t judge; we all do it.) I thought there was only one answer to the question “Who’s the best mother in the world?” And that the answer would always be “You, Mom!” Oh, no. When I ask my kids, “Who’s the best momma in the whole world?” they always reply, “Mary, mother of God!”
They’re careful to insist that I’m absolutely, positively, a solid second. Which isn’t bad, I guess. After all, Mary is—literally—the most blessed woman in the history of the world. We Christians know this because God chose her as the one woman throughout all space and time to deliver humanity its Saviour. And if you needed even more proof, when God chose her—which was probably the biggest surprise any human being has ever experienced—she responded with a brief moment of confusion followed by serene, lifelong acceptance. Most of us struggle to achieve serene acceptance at the checkout line at the grocery store. So, yes, she’s the best mother.
And her unique role in the history of humanity is never more apparent than at Christmas.
We moderns have a variety of beliefs about Jesus’s birth. Some of us confidently accept every last miracle richly detailed in the Gospels. Others pick and choose—they’ll accept that God became flesh and dwelt among us for our salvation, but the star guiding the Wise Men is a bridge too far. Others reject the story in toto.
In 2003, the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof mocked the Virgin Birth in a column published on the Roman Catholic feast of Mary’s assumption into heaven (just to ensure the maximum amount of implied insult). Kristof was worried because 83 percent of Americans say they believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus. He said this belief separates us from the rest of the industrialized world—and he didn’t mean it in a good way.
“The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time,” Kristof wrote, remarking with horror that the percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth had actually risen five points since the question was last polled. “I’m troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering,” he tsked. Though he didn’t specify when, exactly, Christians had not believed in the Virgin Birth. Which was first mentioned, you know, in the Bible.
Kristof wondered why more Christians couldn’t be like his Presbyterian grandfather, who rejected the notion of the Virgin Birth. Which is an odd stance, since you can’t really be a Christian without believing in Christianity. But not as odd as Kristof’s follow-up claim: that the “evidence for the Virgin Birth” was “shaky.” If you’re looking for forensic proof of the deepest mysteries of God’s love, then you’re in the wrong business.
It’s easy to understand why our modern cultural elites struggle with the science of the Virgin Birth, the heavens filling with angels, and the star of the Magi. Yet if you think about it, these miracles aren’t even close to being the most difficult things to believe about the Nativity story.
The deepest mystery of Christmas isn’t how Jesus was conceived and born—it’s why. Why would almighty God care so much about losers like us that he would humble himself to take on human flesh and enter humanity at such a low station?
As intellectually and technologically advanced as we’ve become, this incarnation of God in the person of Christ Jesus is just as unfathomable to us as it was to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Wise Men two thousand years ago.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a doctor of the Church, held that there were three miracles present in the Christmas story. The first was that God would be joined with human flesh. The second was that He would be born of a virgin. The third was that Mary would have such profound faith that she would accept God’s word. Sure, she asked a few questions. But once those were answered, she believed.
And that’s why, in the “who’s your favorite (non-Jesus) person in the Bible or church history” parlor game, Mary is a fan favorite. (She’s way ahead of every other figure, as evidenced by all the art and hymnody surrounding her story—not to mention all the children named Mary, Miriam, Marilyn, and—ahem—Mollie.) In the midst of a hectic life in a hectic world, her incorruptible faith can make her seem nearly impossible to relate to. But she was meant not just for Jesus—she was meant for all of us.
Jesus himself holds her up as a model for all Christians. At one point in the Gospel of Luke, a woman listening to Jesus in a crowd cries out to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which nursed you!” He says, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
On first reading, this might sound like a slight. But it’s not. Jesus isn’t saying, “Sure, but . . .” He’s saying “Yes, and . . .” That the Virgin Mary bore Jesus and nursed him and raised him is beautiful and holy. And yet it pales in comparison to Mary’s joyful confession that she is the Lord’s handmaiden and that she will follow his Word wherever it leads.
She is blessed simply because she was chosen to be the mother of God—but she is a blessing because of the way she made that choice. She said yes, not just to Gabriel’s unprecedented invitation, but to everything God asked of her. She assented completely, giving over not just her body—which, let’s face it, is asking a lot—but also her heart.
Somehow, it’s not hard to imagine a New York Times columnist echoing the complaint that Christianity—and especially Catholic Christianity—is inherently sexist, what with having little, if any, place for women. As in her day, Mary’s story is met with suspicion, even scorn. Yet it was a lowly woman whom God entrusted with the most important role of all—carrying himself for forty long weeks and pushing him into the world. “For unto us a child is born” would not have been possible without Mary’s womanhood.
Many of my fellow Protestants are a bit weirded out by Marian devotion among Roman Catholics—the May crowning, the statues, the rosary. And certainly some traditions have made Mary into an object of worship, a co-redeemer, and one to whom prayers are offered. But just because some go too far doesn’t mean any of us should ignore Mary. We remember and honor her so that we may remember how God chose to be with us; we remember and honor her by seeking to make her words our own: “I am the Lord’s servant/maidservant! I have heard Your Word, O Lord, and can only say, Amen!”
Through Mary, God gave Jesus to all mankind. And Jesus gave her back to all mankind as he hung on the cross, telling John—and all of us—“Behold your mother!” Mary isn’t God. She’s not above God, she’s not equal to God. But given her starring role in the Nativity story, we can all agree that she is even more than just the mother of God. She is the model for, and mother of, all Christians.
Martin Luther, the reformer and pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg, gave a Christmas sermon in 1529 saying of Mary that she “is the mother of Jesus and the mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees. . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.”
My children agree. And they’re right. Mary is mother to us all—and she’s the best mother in the whole world.