Saturday, May 29, 2010

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

Homily for Holy Trinity Sunday, 30 May 2010
Cor Jesu Oratory

We hear in our Epistle for today’s Mass, the Feast of the Holy Trinity: “”For from him and through him and in him are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.”

This phrase from Sacred Scripture is the “final doxology” at the end of the Roman Canon where the priest takes the Sacred Host and over the Chalice of the Precious Blood signs with the Cross three times and then two times in front of it saying words based upon this praise of the Most Holy Trinity. It is a profound signification of the life and action of the Holy Trinity: the Father sends the Son to become a “victim” in complete obedience in the Love of the Holy Spirit.

The three “signs of the Cross” indicate the Trinitarian work present in the Sacrifice of the Cross; the two “signs of the Cross” in front of the Chalice indicate the identity of the Son Who offers Himself in Sacrifice: True God and True Man.

Deacon Laurence Hemming, in his work, “Worship as Revelation”, describes the “unfolding of the mystery” of our life in God, in His Trinitarian life, in the rites and words of the Sacred Liturgy, particularly in the Holy Mass. He writes:

Symbolically the activity of the liturgy….is how the altar ‘speaks’ and how it enters into human conversation. The conversation is double; it is the means by which the conversation between the First and Second Persons of the Divine Trinity is made available to the understanding of the baptized, and so how the baptized are inserted into the eternal conversation between the Father and the Son through the work of the Spirit; and it is the means by which mere human conversation is fully taken up into the divine life so that it can disclose, and so be, what it signifies. ‘Speaking’ here does not just mean words: it means every symbolic or ritual gesture, every silence, that the liturgy employs in its divinely authorized activity (p. 54).

The sacred actions and words of the Holy Mass reveal to us who God is, what God’s requirements are, how we are to approach Him, how we are to be formed and molded according to His image and likeness.

Our understanding of the Holy Trinity is not merely an intellectual exercise, like mathematics. We do not leave aside our ability to reason, our intellect, but are transformed and allow the concepts we have to be transcended in the grace of God, His revelation to us, given through the Holy Church, by the action of grace. Deacon Hemmings describes this reality in this way:

…God is no longer ‘other’ to me…God’s interior self-revelation in the Persons of the Trinity, through the redemption wrought in Christ, now includes me insofar as I am called to live within it, and know myself to be so living. This is in consequence of the death and resurrection of Christ, within which mystery I am included through Baptism…now I live through the Son in the power of the Spirit toward the Father: insofar as I receive the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, I live in the Christ I come to know in the liturgy, and so I am brought to meet the Father. Insofar as I am in Christ, I am caught up into the divine, Trinitarian, life….my every participation in the liturgy re-enacts, brings into existence, and enfleshes the baptismal even and makes it real, above all in the even of the Mass and my reception of the Eucharist. I live my Baptism, above all through my very embodiment (whilst gaining an understanding of what it will be to have a new body on a new earth under a new heaven)…My Baptism is the conditioning possibility of my vocation as a Christian (pp. 41-42).

This mystical, sacramental encounter with Jesus Christ in the Sacred Liturgy makes it possible for me to know the Father in the Holy Spirit; where One of the Trinity is active, the others a present, as well. The initial “immersion” in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Baptism and the sealing of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation is a transition and transformation from merely “natural” life to supernatural life. It is the very basis of the universal call to holiness, which the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Lumen gentium, has defined and made clear. All of us, in every state in life, are called to become saints; we are called to nurture and increase the life of grace within us, to become virtuous and living signs of the “Kingdom of God”, according to the duties and obligations of our particular vocation. Each state in life makes present the particular mystery of Christ’s Love and Redemptive Sacrifice: the married are called to live in the love of Christ and His Church, the sacrifice of self for the other in imitation of the Lord and His Church; the priest is called to be “alter Christus”: to be the sign and Redemptive sign of the Saviour’s Love for all mankind by offering the Holy Sacrifice, absolving sins, anointing the sick, witnessing Marriages, baptizing the faithful. Consecrated persons are called to witness to the primacy of the Kingdom of God, to renounce possessions, family and their own wills to live in a stable form of life to give glory to the Father, to worship the Son, to live in the grace of the Holy Spirit. I include both religious and secular consecrated persons, as well as those, for whatever reason, remain single in dedication to God’s glory.

The life of the Holy Trinity is the origin of the Church. It is the very mystery of our liturgical life. In the celebration of Holy Mass, all of the Sacraments and the praying of the Divine Office, as the Church calls it, “the song of love between Bride and Bridegroom”, the great mystery of God, His very essence, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is made manifest through the outward signs and symbols, words and chants of His Church.

Deacon Hemmings has a further reflection which illustrates this reality. He writes;

To know ‘about’ the God disclosed through the liturgy is not the same as knowing God in the liturgy…To know the Trinity, to know God as Trinity, is to know through faith in Jesus Christ that God as Father calls me through the Spirit to be an adopted son or daughter. To know, to believe, to trust, that Jesus is the Son of God is to know that I too can be filiated to God. The experience of participating in the liturgy is the practical working out of that knowledge. It is knowledge that can only be gained by, and rejoiced in, through faith. Through faith, and by Baptism, we enter into the life of God by means of the liturgy. The liturgy discloses an understanding of God as he reveals himself to be, in Christ, in a knowledge that can only be gained through faith, not deduced or derived by reason or a rational act of self-posting (I think: I am).

This why the Lord, in our Gospel reading for today, unites the preaching of the Gospel and teaching its truths with baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Faith is not merely the “content” of faith in its intellectual format; it is the interior acceptance of God’s revelation in His Son through the action of the Holy Spirit; Holy Baptism in the Name of the Trinity immerses us in the very life of God. We are then made sharers in that life; we must nurture it, love it, deepen and expand it by our response in love. We can know God, in certain ways, through our reason unaided by grace, it is true, it is the teaching of the Church. But we cannot know God intimately, personally, in union unless assisted by grace, the grace we receive in Baptism, the grace we participate in through the reception of the other Sacraments, esp. Penance and Holy Communion, our prayer, virtuous acts, spiritual reading and acceptance of the demands of our state in life.

May this Eucharistic Sacrifice to which we are present make us more open to the graces God wants to give us, in the imitation of our Lady, Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and St. Joseph, the "man of silence" who did God's will in perfect obedience. May the fruits of this Holy Mass enable us to "be witnesses" in the midst of the world, in our daily duties, to be the "sign" of His Love and work.

"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen."

"The Icon of Holy Saturday"

Dear Friends,

This is a moment to which I have been looking forward. I have stood before the Holy Shroud on various occasions but this time I am experiencing this Pilgrimage and this moment with special intensity: perhaps this is because the passing years make me even more sensitive to the message of this extraordinary Icon; perhaps and I would say above all this is because I am here now as the Successor of Peter, and I carry in my heart the whole Church, indeed, the whole of humanity. I thank God for the gift of this Pilgrimage and also for the opportunity to share with you a brief meditation inspired by the subtitle of this solemn Exposition: "The Mystery of Holy Saturday".

One could say that the Shroud is the Icon of this mystery, the Icon of Holy Saturday. Indeed it is a winding-sheet that was wrapped round the body of a man who was crucified, corresponding in every way to what the Gospels tell us of Jesus who, crucified at about noon, died at about three o'clock in the afternoon. At nightfall, since it was Parasceve, that is, the eve of Holy Saturday, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and authoritative member of the Sanhedrin, courageously asked Pontius Pilate for permission to bury Jesus in his new tomb which he had had hewn out in the rock not far from Golgotha. Having obtained permission, he bought a linen cloth, and after Jesus was taken down from the Cross, wrapped him in that shroud and buried him in that tomb (cf. Mk 15: 42-46). This is what the Gospel of St Mark says and the other Evangelists are in agreement with him. From that moment, Jesus remained in the tomb until dawn of the day after the Sabbath and the Turin Shroud presents to us an image of how his body lay in the tomb during that period which was chronologically brief (about a day and a half), but immense, infinite in its value and in its significance.

Holy Saturday is the day when God remains hidden, we read in an ancient Homily: "What has happened? Today the earth is shrouded in deep silence, deep silence and stillness, profound silence because the King sleeps.... God has died in the flesh, and has gone down to rouse the realm of the dead" (Homily on Holy Saturday, PG 43, 439). In the Creed, we profess that Jesus Christ was "crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again".

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having lived through the past century, humanity has become particularly sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. The concealment of God is part of contemporary man's spirituality, in an existential almost subconscious manner, like a void in the heart that has continued to grow larger and larger. Towards the end of the 19th century, Nietzsche wrote: "God is dead! And we killed him!". This famous saying is clearly taken almost literally from the Christian tradition. We often repeat it in the Way of the Cross, perhaps without being fully aware of what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the lagers and the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become increasingly a Holy Saturday: this day's darkness challenges all who are wondering about life and it challenges us believers in particular. We too have something to do with this darkness.

Yet the death of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive, a source of comfort and hope. And this reminds me of the fact that the Holy Shroud acts as a "photographic' document, with both a "positive" and a "negative". And, in fact, this is really how it is: the darkest mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a never-ending hope. Holy Saturday is a "no man's land" between the death and the Resurrection, but this "no man's land" was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of his Passion for man's sake: Passio Christi. Passio hominis. And the Shroud speaks to us precisely about this moment testifying exactly to that unique and unrepeatable interval in the history of humanity and the universe in which God, in Jesus Christ, not only shared our dying but also our remaining in death the most radical solidarity.

In this "time-beyond-time", Jesus Christ "descended to the dead". What do these words mean? They mean that God, having made himself man, reached the point of entering man's most extreme and absolute solitude, where not a ray of love enters, where total abandonment reigns without any word of comfort: "hell". Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to cross it with him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us. Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: the voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated "hell". Even in the extreme darkness of the most absolute human loneliness we may hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out. Human beings live because they are loved and can love; and if love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone: Passio Christi. Passio hominis.

This is the mystery of Holy Saturday! Truly from there, from the darkness of the death of the Son of God, the light of a new hope gleamed: the light of the Resurrection. And it seems to me that, looking at this sacred Cloth through the eyes of faith, one may perceive something of this light. Effectively, the Shroud was immersed in that profound darkness that was at the same time luminous; and I think that if thousands and thousands of people come to venerate it without counting those who contemplate it through images it is because they see in it not only darkness but also the light; not so much the defeat of life and of love, but rather victory, the victory of life over death, of love over hatred. They indeed see the death of Jesus, but they also see his Resurrection; in the bosom of death, life is now vibrant, since love dwells within it. This is the power of the Shroud: from the face of this "Man of sorrows", who carries with him the passion of man of every time and every place, our passions too, our sufferings, our difficulties and our sins Passio Christi. Passio hominis from this face a solemn majesty shines, a paradoxical lordship. This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks. It is itself a word we can hear in the silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an Icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced. The Image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that huge stain near his rib, made by the blood and water that flowed copiously from a great wound inflicted by the tip of a Roman spear. That blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that murmurs in the silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it in the silence of Holy Saturday.

Dear friends, let us always praise the Lord for his faithful and merciful love. When we leave this holy place, may we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, may we carry in our hearts this word of love and praise God with a life full of faith, hope and charity. Thank you.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the Lighter Side

Couldn't resist this!
Monastic hood tip to Mulier Fortis via The Crescat (aka Kat) on Facebook.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blessed Feast of Pentecost!

Thanks to John Sonnen and The New Liturgical Movement.

The red roses are a symbol of the tongues of the fire of Pentecost that rested upon the Apostles.

What a beautiful signification of this most wonderful Feast!

Prayers and blessings to all of you from our Nazareth monastic Community!
Today is our founding day; in 1987 (The Marian Year), Bishop John Paul gave us official recognition as an association of the faithful. Thanks to the help of then, Fr. Raymond L. Burke (now Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome). May Bishop Paul rest in peace. May Archbishop Burke be given every grace and blessing in his mission given by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict.

A happy and blessed Feast to you all!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wednesday before Ascension Thursday

Contemplative monastics, being notoriously "late" because of all kinds of everything:<)!, are, however, not dismissive of the liturgical year; we did, in fact, have the "Rogation Litany and Procession" on the Wednesday before Ascension Thursday (in the "usus antiquior"...the former Usage of the Roman Missal) at our future "Cor Jesu Priory and Oratory"...although it was only the monastic community, the whole Church was present, even if invisible.

Here are photos of the "Litany of Saints" and the opening rites of the Holy Mass.
We prayed for protection against natural disasters, for a good crop, for the needs of Holy Mother Church, for the protection of the faithful against natural disasters, for the propagation of the Holy Catholic Faith...for all of you who read this blog.

We are small...we struggle mightily...but we love the Holy Roman Church, all of Her Traditions, all of you...we depend upon your kindness and generosity in your prayers and in your offerings...we struggle financially, but that's okay; it means we are poor and dependant upon the loving kindness of the Heavenly Father.

We pray for you; we really do.
If you could help us in any way financially, we are most appreciative.
Our website:
Your help is most appreciated and will be rewarded by our prayers and the help of the Heavenly Father. Many, many thanks. We'll pray, regardless if we have to eat herbs and bread (not likely around these parts...these folks are most generous with food)...but our medical/insurance debts are increasingly difficult...if you could help us in any way, God reward you! Mary help you! Joseph protect you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ascension Day

Ascension Homily
16 May 2010
Cor Jesu Oratory

The Gospel for today’s Holy Mass begins, “Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table.” This refers in a significant way to the Eucharistic Mystery, the place and time that Jesus revealed Himself during the forty days after His Resurrection to the disciples, who at Pentecost would become Apostles, in other words, those sent out on mission. And what was this mission? To preach, teach, sanctify and lead the Church. Within the context of the Eucharist, the Lord makes known to them, and today, to us, through the apostolic succession, within the Sacred Liturgy, the truths and mystery He came to bequeath both to them and to us: the saving power of God.

The Ascension of the Lord into heaven is the culmination of His Sacred Passion, Death and Resurrection. In the Roman Canon, directly after the Consecration, these mysteries are mentioned together:

“For this reason, O Lord, we your servants and likewise your holy people remember the blessed suffering of the same Christ, your Son, our Lord. We remember his rising from the abode of the dead and his going up to the glory of heaven. Mindful of all this from among the gifts you gave us we offer to your radiant majesty a victim, pure, holy spotless the sacred bread of life eternal the cup which gives salvation forever.”

The earthly presence of the God-Man Jesus Christ is changed, not ended. His Sacred Humanity ascends to sit at the right hand of the Father. But His mystical and sacramental Presence remains. The symbolism of the Paschal Candle being extinguished after the Gospel is to signify the transition from the Risen Lord's earthly presence before the Ascension to the Eucharistic Presence indicated by our sanctuary lamp, which is always burning whenever the Sacred Species is present in the tabernacle. He leaves, only to remain. The Temple of the Body of Jesus in His earthly reality replaces the Temple of Jerusalem. There was only one temple in the religion of Israel. With this transformation, there is a Temple wherever the Blessed Sacrament is reserved or where the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated. The universal commission, “Go, teach all nations” becomes reality in the countless oratories, chapels, churches, and cathedrals throughout the world. This is the establishment of the dominion of Christ the King, the Lord of All. He reigns on this earth wherever He is present Sacramentally; wherever His grace is dispensed and received with faith; wherever two or three live in charity.

The angel says to the Eleven in the words of our Introit: “Men of Galilee, at what are you amazed, while you look up to heaven?...Just as you saw him going into heaven, so will he come back…” I believe we can see this in two ways: it promises the return of the Lord in His Second Coming when all of human history will be at an end and He will carry out the General Judgment. But it can also indicate that Jesus “returns” with the coming of the Paraclete in the Pentecost event, which makes Apostles out of the disciples, establishes the beginning of the Church and the celebration of the “breaking of the bread”, or the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is mentioned early on in the Acts of the Apostles. The amazement of the disciples experiencing the Ascension of the Lord must become the “Eucharistic amazement” of which Pope John Paul II made great emphasis in his encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, “Ecclesia in Eucharistia”, the Church is born of the Eucharist. This is the great Ascension mystery which is fully revealed in Pentecost. The nine days of waiting between the two events is the “great Novena”, the “original Novena” of prayer. This preparation for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which we will celebrate next Sunday is a time for us to intensify our prayer that we may become His witnesses in a greater and more profound way.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent pilgrimage to Portugal, reminded us of the essential task we have as believers.

We know that she also has quarrelsome and even rebellious sons and daughters, but it is in the saints that the Church recognizes her most characteristic features, it is in them that she tastes her deepest joy. They all share the desire to incarnate the Gospel in their own lives, under the inspiration of the eternal animator of God’s People – the Holy Spirit. Focussing her attention upon her own saints, this local Church has rightly concluded that today’s pastoral priority is to make each Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the Gospel perspective in the midst of the world, in the family, in culture, in the economy, in politics. Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?
In order for this not to happen, it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigour and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation. The resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church. Therefore our faith is well-founded, but this faith needs to come alive in each one of us. A vast effort at every level is required if every Christian is to be transformed into a witness capable of rendering account to all and at all times of the hope that inspires him (cf. 1 Pet 3:15): only Christ can fully satisfy the profound longings of every human heart and give answers to its most pressing questions concerning suffering, injustice and evil, concerning death and the life hereafter
…Christ is always with us and always walks with his Church, accompanies her and guards her, as he has told us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Never doubt his presence! Always seek the Lord Jesus, grow in friendship with him, receive him in communion. Learn to listen to his word and also to recognize him in the poor. Live your lives with joy and enthusiasm, sure of his presence and of his unconditional, generous friendship, faithful even to death on the cross. Bear witness to all of the joy that his strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries. Tell them that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following him. With your enthusiasm, demonstrate that, among all the different ways of life that the world today seems to offer us – apparently all on the same level – the only way in which we find the true meaning of life and hence true and lasting joy, is by following Jesus.

Our Holy Father is emphasizing here that it is the growth in the interior life, of a life centered upon Jesus and His Way in His Church, that makes saints and is victorious over sin and evil. Even the “darkness” of these times cannot extinguish the Light of Christ if we trust in Him. We must not conform ourselves to the spirit of the world, but be transformed in Him. Our lives do make a difference in these times; our small contribution is essential for the mission of the Lord and of His Church, even if it is hidden and isolated. The early Church is our example of fidelity in the midst of persecution; joy in the midst of trial; courage and constancy in the midst of a society that has lost its moral bearings. The joy of Easter does not end at the final day of the Octave nor of the end of Paschaltide. It begins in earnest on Pentecost Sunday when what we have celebrated and learned becomes a stronger foundation for faith, hope and charity.

With our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Church let us await the new out-pouring of the Spirit that the Lord is preparing. With Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer and the Universal Protector of the Church, let us avail ourselves to a greater love of Jesus and of His Church. The wondrous Mystery that is enacted before our very eyes at this Altar is the Presence of the One Who died, but lives. May He be praised for ever. Amen.

Image: 16th C. Russian icon;

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Prayer to Our Lady



Esplanade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima
Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Holy Father:

Our Lady,
Mother of all men and women,
I come before you as a son
visiting his Mother,
and I do so in company
with a multitude of brothers and sisters.
As the Successor of Peter,
to whom was entrusted the mission
of presiding in the service
of charity in the Church of Christ
and of confirming all in faith and in hope,
I wish to present to your
Immaculate Heart
the joys and hopes
as well as the problems and sufferings
of each one of these sons and daughters of yours
who are gathered in the Cova di Iria
or who are praying with us from afar.

Mother most gentle,
you know each one by name,
you know each one’s face and personal history,
and you love them all
with maternal benevolence
that wells up from the very heart of Divine Love.
I entrust and consecrate them all to you,
Mary Most Holy,
Mother of God and our Mother.

Cantors and Assembly:

We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 1)

Holy Father:

The Venerable Pope John Paul II,
who visited you three times here in Fatima
and thanked the “unseen hand”
that rescued him from death
in the assassination attempt on 13 May
in Saint Peter’s Square almost thirty years ago,
wanted to offer to the Shrine of Fatima
a bullet which gravely wounded him
and was placed in the crown of the Queen of Peace.
It is a profound consolation
to know that you are crowned
not only with the silver
and gold of our joys and hopes,
but also with the “bullet”
of our anxieties and sufferings.
I thank you, beloved Mother,
for the prayers and sacrifices
that the shepherd-children
of Fatima offered for the Pope,
led by the sentiments
that you inspired in them in the apparitions.
I also thank all those who,
every day,
pray for the Successor of Peter
and for his intentions,
that the Pope may be strong in faith,
bold in hope and zealous in love.

Cantors and Assembly:

We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 2)

Holy Father:

Beloved Mother of us all,
here in your Shrine at Fatima I consign
the Golden Rose
that I have brought from Rome
as a homage of gratitude from the Pope
for the marvels that the Almighty
has worked through you
in the hearts of so many who come as pilgrims
to this your maternal home.
I am sure that the shepherd-children of Fatima,
Blessed Francisco and Jacinta
and the Servant of God Lucia of Jesus,
are united with us at this hour of prayer and jubilation.

Cantors and Assembly:

We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 5).

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Image from:

Pope Benedict : "The pleasant surprise...[in the] the movements and new ecclesial communities..."




Conference Hall of the "Casa Nossa Senhora do Carmo" - Fátima
Thursday, 13 May 2010

Dear Brother Bishops,

I thank God for giving me this occasion to meet all of you here at the Shrine of Fatima, the spiritual heart of Portugal, where multitudes of pilgrims from all over the world come looking to discover or to reinforce their certainty in the truths of Heaven. Among them has come from Rome the Successor of Peter, accepting the oft-repeated invitations and moved by a debt of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who herself transmitted to her seers and pilgrims an intense love for the Holy Father which has borne fruit in a great multitude which prays, with Jesus as its guide: Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).

As you see, the Pope needs to open himself ever more fully to the mystery of the Cross, embracing it as the one hope and the supreme way to gain and to gather in the Crucified One all his brothers and sisters in humanity. Obeying the word of God, he is called to live not for himself but for the presence of God in the world. I am comforted by the determination with which you too follow me closely, fearing nothing except the loss of eternal salvation for your people, as was clearly expressed in the words of greeting spoken by Archbishop Jorge Ortiga upon my arrival in your midst, and which testify to the unconditional fidelity of the Bishops of Portugal to the Successor of Peter. From my heart I thank you. I thank you as well for all the attention that you have given to organizing my Visit. May God reward you, and pour out the Holy Spirit in abundance upon you and your Dioceses so that, with one heart and with one soul, you may bring to completion the pastoral work which you have begun, that is, offering each member of the faithful an exacting and attractive Christian initiation, one which communicates the integrity of the faith and genuine spirituality, rooted in the Gospel, and capable of forming free and generous labourers in the midst of public life.

In truth, the times in which we live demand a new missionary vigour on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world. Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration. And yet, dear brothers, may all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out, as faithful lay men and women, their Christian freedom.

You maintain a strong prophetic dimension, without allowing yourselves to be silenced, in the present social context, for “the word of God is not fettered” (2 Tim 2:9). People cry out for the Good News of Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to their lives and protects their dignity. In your role as first evangelizers, it will be useful for you to know and to understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources; what is decisive, however, is the ability to inculcate in all those engaged in the work of evangelization a true desire for holiness, in the awareness that the results derive above all from our union with Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, when, in the view of many people, the Catholic faith is no longer the common patrimony of society and, often, seen as seed threatened and obscured by the “gods” and masters of this world, only with great difficulty can the faith touch the hearts of people by means simple speeches or moral appeals, and even less by a general appeal to Christian values. The courageous and integral appeal to principles is essential and indispensable; yet simply proclaiming the message does not penetrate to the depths of people’s hearts, it does not touch their freedom, it does not change their lives. What attracts is, above all, the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to him. The words of Pope John Paul II come to mind: “The Church needs above all great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness among the ‘Christifideles’ because it is from holiness that is born every authentic renewal of the Church, all intelligent enrichment of the faith and of the Christian life, the vital and fecund reactualization of Christianity with the needs of man, a renewed form of presence in the heart of human existence and of the culture of nations (Address for the XX Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Conciliar Decree “Apostolicam Actuositatem”, 18 November 1985). One could say, “the Church has need of these great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness…, but there are none!”

In this regard, I confess to you the pleasant surprise that I had in making contact with the movements and the new ecclesial communities. Watching them, I had the joy and the grace to see how, at a moment of weariness in the Church, at a time when we were hearing about “the winter of the Church”, the Holy Spirit was creating a new springtime, awakening in young people and adults alike the joy of being Christian, of living in the Church, which is the living Body of Christ. Thanks to their charisms, the radicality of the Gospel, the objective contents of the faith, the living flow of her tradition, are all being communicated in a persuasive way and welcomed as a personal experience, as adherence in freedom to the present event of Christ.

The necessary condition, naturally, is that these new realities desire to live in the one Church, albeit with spaces in some way set aside for their own life, in such a way that this life becomes fruitful for all the others. The bearers of a particular charism must feel themselves fundamentally responsible for communion, for the common faith of the Church, and submit themselves to the leadership of their Bishops. It is they who must ensure the ecclesial nature of the movements. Bishops are not only those who hold an office, but those who themselves are bearers of charisms, and responsible for the openness of the Church to the working of the Holy Spirit. We, Bishops, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, are anointed by the Holy Spirit and thus the sacrament ensures that we too are open to his gifts. Thus, on the one hand, we must feel responsibility for welcoming these impulses which are gifts for the Church and which give her new vitality, but, on the other hand, we must also help the movements to find the right way, making some corrections with understanding – with the spiritual and human understanding that is able to combine guidance, gratitude and a certain openness and a willingness to learn.

This is precisely what you must foster or confirm in your priests. In this Year for Priests now drawing to a close, rediscover, dear brothers, the role of the Bishop as father, especially with regard to your priests. For all too long the responsibility of authority as a service aimed at the growth of others and in the first place of priests, has been given second place. Priests are called to serve, in their pastoral ministry, and to be part of a pastoral activity of communion or oneness, as the Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis reminds us, “No priest is sufficiently equipped to carry out his mission alone and as it were single-handed. He can only do so by joining forces with other priests, under the leadership of those who govern the Church” (No. 7). This is not a matter of turning back to the past, nor of a simple return to our origins, but rather of a recovery of the fervour of the origins, of the joy of the initial Christian experience, and of walking beside Christ like the disciples of Emmaus on the day of Easter, allowing his word to warm our hearts and his “broken bread” to open our eyes to the contemplation of his face. Only in this way will the fire of charity blaze strongly enough to impel every Christian to become a source of light and life in the Church and among all men and women.

Before concluding, I would like to ask you, in your role as leaders and ministers of charity in the Church, to rekindle, in yourselves as individuals and as a group, a sense of mercy and of compassion, in order to respond to grave social needs. New organizations must be established, and those already existing perfected, so that they can be capable of responding creatively to every form of poverty, including those experienced as a lack of the meaningfulness in life and the absence of hope. The efforts you are making to assist the Dioceses most in need, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries, is praiseworthy. May difficulties, which today are more deeply felt, not make you shrink from the logic of self-giving. Let there continue and flourish in this country, your witness as prophets of justice and peace, and defenders of the inalienable rights of the person. Join your voice to the voices of the least powerful, whom you have wisely helped to gain a voice of their own, without ever being afraid of raising your voice on behalf of the oppressed, the downtrodden and those who have been mistreated.

I entrust all of you to Our Lady of Fatima, and I ask her to sustain you with her maternal care amid the challenges which you face, so that you will be promoters of a culture and a spirituality of charity, peace, hope and justice, faith and service. To you, to the members of your families and to your diocesan communities I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Anne Marie's First Holy Communion

My niece, Anne Marie, is making her First Holy Communion tomorrow.
She looks so very much like this photo (monastic hood tip to The Crescat)...
she's a real that is destined to be a CEO of some corporation or a Mother Superior (the last option I am praying for!)

My sister, Julie, and her husband, Dan, are great parents...their four children (three boys and Anne Marie) are such great kids. (I'm prejudiced here...I'm their uncle, after all!).

I pray for these young people, all of them, that they may respond to God's call and be what He wants them to be, what He has destined them to be from all eternity.

I love them all so very much!
God is so good!
Never, in my wildest imagination, when I became a Catholic some thirty years ago, did I imagine seeing my nephews and niece receiving Jesus in Holy following Him in the Holy Catholic Faith.

I am so happy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oremus pro invicem--Let us pray for one another!

Priests need the prayers of the faithful; the faithful need the prayers of priests.
In this "Year for Priests" and this month of May, dedicated to our Lady, let us pray the rosary for one another.
This is a most beautiful testimony to the power of the Rosary and love between the faithful and priests.

Monastic hood tip to His Hermeneuticalness, Fr. Finigan,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph, the Worker. In our Diocese of LaCrosse, it is a Solemnity because he is the primary patron of our Diocese. And, he is the Patron of our Public Association of the Faithful, the Institute of Saint Joseph.

This feast was instituted to combat the "Worker's Day" of the Communist Party in the 1950's by Pope Pius XII by emphasizing the Catholic understanding of the dignity of the human person and the dignity of work, not as an "end", but as a "means" of perfecting and sanctifying the human person, in the imitation of Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer and Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Fr. Marie-Dominique Phillipe, OP, founder of the Community of Saint John, in the recently released book,"The Mystery of Joseph" (Ignatius Press), has a beautiful meditation upon Saint Joseph, work, the monastic life and the lay life.

The great grace of the Second Vatican Council was perhaps to make us discover, or rediscover, the unity that exists between the Christian household and the monastic life, and to show us that there is no separation between the two. There is a distinction, obviously, but a distinction for the purpose of a much deeper unity, because we are all tending towards the same holiness, towards the same intimacy with Christ, with Mary, with Joseph. It is very important that the spirituality of the family today not be separated from monastic spirituality, and that there are profound exchanges in the order of charity (in the order of 'agape') between Christian households, which are in the world and have temporal responsibilities, and monastic households--spiritual and contemplative households which are totally consecrated to God. The latter remain linked to temporal households and families, and must help them to go further.

The monastic life, in its most classic and simplest features, is rooted in the life of Joseph, in the silent and hidden life of a worker who worships God and loves Him--a faithful worker, meek and poor...

'Poor' in the work that he did, Joseph accepted that he would not see immediate results. 'Faithful', he ceaselessly offered his work to God, working to the best of his ability yet doing so for God. 'Meek', he did his work without jealousy or rivalry. He worked as a man of poverty, to glorify God. Where did this unceasing concern for God's glory come from? From his faithfulness to adoration. The demands of adoration (which are 'interior' and not simply the forced carrying out of a legal recommendation) leave us completely stripped of everything. A man who truly adores considers his work as matter to be consumed in the interior fire of adoration, and he does not expect anything else. Far from being an opposition to prayer or the contemplative life, work that is lived in this way is a foundation for monastic life....

What we are talking about here is true for all Christians; for all Christians the fundamental requirement is to live by adoration,'in spirit and truth' and then, stemming from the adoration, to live by a thirst for contemplation...