30 September 2013

Friends and rain

Since my arrival in the Eternal City I have twice had the opportunity to visit with friends from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois who were in Rome for one reason or another and to dine with them.

The first such visit was with two couples from the Diocese who are Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem who came for the International Pilgrimage.  When I went to have dinner with them at their hotel I walked through the streets of Rome in the rain.

Today I was able to have lunch with one of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis who was visiting Rome with a group of pilgrims from the Hospital Sisters Health System and today I walked through the streets of Rome in the rain to meet her.

Today, though, was no ordinary rain; it was just shy of a deluge:

You cannot see the dome of the Basilica of St. Peter clearly because of the rain.

Tomorrow I am to have lunch with another friend and a couple of other friends are to arrive later this week.  I'm beginning to wonder if every meal with friends will also be accompanied by rain.  I certainly hope not!

Walking through Rome in the rain does carry one major benefit: tourists apparently melt if they get wet and so are nowhere to be found.  However, rather than dodging tourists, pedestrians must instead carefully pick their path through the streams and lakes that form in the streets of the Rome.  It has been confirmed for me that it is impossible to walk in the rain in Rome without thoroughly drenched, whether one has an umbrella and poncho or no.

26 September 2013

Saints Cosmas and Damian in Art

Today being the memorial of Saints Cosmas and Damian, two brothers who were known as the "moneyless ones" because of their refusal to accept payment for the medical services out of love for Christ, I decided to visit the basilica in Rome dedicated to their memory and to pray for their intercession.

(When he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, young Joseph DeVuester chose the name Damien in honor of this martyr.

Here are few images depicting the lives - or, more precisely, the martyrdom - of the two saints:

If the paintings don't make sense, read the legend.

Prayers for persecuted Christians

Following the plea made yesterday of His Holiness Pope Francis for Christians to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, I thought it might be helpful to post a few prayers that you can pray either alone or with your family and friends.

The Mass for Persecuted Christians

The liturgical texts of the Church are always a good place to begin when looking for prayers.  The Roman Missal provides the following prayers:

O God, who in your inscrutable providence
will that the Church  to the sufferings of your Son
grant, we pray, to your faithful who suffer for your name's sake
a spirit of patience and charity,
that they may be found true and faithful witnesses
to the promises you have made.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Prayer Over the Offerings

Receive, we ask, O God,
the prayers and sacrificial gifts we offer in humility
and grant that those who suffer persecution
for their faithful service to you
may rejoice to be united to the sacrifice of Christ your Son
and may know that their names are written in heaven
among the company of the elect.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer After Communion

By the power of this Sacrament, O Lord,
confirm your servants in the truth
and grant to your faithful who suffer tribulation
that, as they follow your Son in bearing their cross,
they may, in every trial, glory in the name of Christian.
Through Christ our Lord.
Talk with your priest about your concern for the persecuted Church and about your desire to prayer for them.  Ask him to offer this Mass with some frequency.

A Prayer for Persecuted Christians

The branch of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need in the United Kingdom provides the following prayer:
Father in Heaven, you make your sun shine
on good and bad alike.
Your Son Jesus Christ died for us all
and in his glorious Resurrection
He still retains the five wounds of his Passion.
With his divine power he now sustains
all those who suffer persecution and martyrdom
for the sake of their fidelity
to the faith of the Church.
Merciful and mighty Father,
do not allow Cain to return again to murder
helpless Abel, innocent Abel.
May persecuted Christians around the world
remain, like Mary, their Mother,
together at the foot of the cross
of Christ the Martyr.
Comfort those menaced by violence
and those oppressed by uncertainty.
May your Holy Spirit of love
make fruitful the witness and the blood
of those who die forgiving.
A Papal Prayer Intention

Pope Francis' missionary prayer intention for the month of September 2013, to which we should all join our prayers, is as follows:
That Christians suffering persecution in many parts of the world may, by their witness, be prophets of Christ's love.
Though the month of September is nearly complete, we could certainly continue to hold this intention in our heats, especially as we pray the Rosary and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

A Prayer for One's Enemies

One of the prayers of Saint Thomas More will be especially helpful for those who are themselves persecuted for the name of Jesus Christ:
Almighty God,
have mercy on N
and on all that bear me evil will and would me harm,
and on their faults and mine together,
by such easy, tender, merciful means,
as thine infinite wisdom best can devise;
vouchsafe to amend and redress
and make us saved souls together in heaven,
where we may ever live and love together
with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity,
for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ.
A Difficult Search

Finding prayers specifically for persecuted Christians and for their persecutors has proven - rather surprisingly - difficult.  I have intentionally not provided prayers for specific regions or countries where persecution occurs, nor have I provided prayers simply for peace in general terms.

Are you aware of other prayer for the persecuted and their oppressors?  If so, would you kindly provide a link to the prayer or the text of the prayer and the person from whom it comes?  Thanks!

A Suggestion

Because we are often forgetful and become too easily absorbed in our own affairs, it might be helpful to print out the Holy Father's question and put it somewhere you will be certain to see it each day: on the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, the dining room table, the dashboard of your car, your desk at work, in your daily prayer book, etc. (you could do the same with one or more of the above prayers). In doing so, you will be continually called to prayer.

Now, lest we forget, Pope Francis' question:
How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted? Ask yourselves, do I pray for that brother or sister who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?

25 September 2013

Is Pope Francis really considering a female cardinal?

There is an article making its way through the internet which confidently claims that "Pope Francis contemplates a female cardinal."

There are two clear reasons we can be certain this article is absolute rubbish.

The first is found in the article's opening words: "It's not a joke."  Let's be honest: If an article begins in such a way, it is, in fact, a joke and lacks any foundation in reality.

The second is found in a claim of Dr. Phylis Zagano, who is an advocate of the ordination of women to the diaconate (and whose claims I refuted some years ago, I admit, rather snarkily).

In discussing Dr. Zagano's claims, the author, Juan Arias from Rio de Janiero, claims that "any woman who is appointed deaconess can indeed become a cardinal without having to change canonical law."

In point of fact, this runs quite contrary to the Code of Canon Law, specifically canon 351 § 1, which reads:
The Roman Pontiff freely selects men to be promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the presbyterate and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal consecration.
As I said, the article is rubbish. This article is yet another reason why you cannot and should not trust secular reports on the life of the Church.

Pope: How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted?

The increasing persecution of Christians - both Catholic and otherwise - across the globe is a matter of great concern to me, as long time readers of these pages will know.  Yesterday, after a hiatus of far too-long a time, I resumed blogging at Persecution Watch to help highlight and draw attention to the attacks that our brothers and sisters face in so many parts of the world.

It has always saddened me greatly that so many Christians in the United States of America - and other countries, as well - know far more about television programs such as Dancing with the Stars or Honey Boo Boo (all the while claiming to have no time to help in the parish or even to pray) than they do about the deplorable plight that growing numbers of Christians face each day.

This lamentably reality is also close to the heart of the Holy Father Pope Francis, who today bluntly asked those gathered for his General Audience today in St. Peter's Square:
How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted? Ask yourselves, do I pray for that brother or sister who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?
I have every confidence that he would desire to ask this question of each one of us, of you and of me.

John Allen, Jr. provides today a succinct summary of the current situation of the world that so many are content to ignore:
According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that over the last decade, an average of 100,000 Christians have died each year in what the center calls a “situation of witness,” meaning for motives related to their faith.
Though some experts regard that estimate as inflated, it works out to an average of 11 Christians killed each hour throughout the past decade.
Each of us must fast and pray in solidarity with those who are members with us of the Body of Christ.  We cannot be indifferent!

24 September 2013

Ice increases at both poles

A couple of weeks ago I posted a report indicating that the arctic ice cap - the one in the north - had increased by some 1,000,000 square miles, an increase of 60% over the previous year, following predictions that by this time this year there would be no ice at all at the north pole.

Today the Washington Post reports that the amount of ice in the antarctic - in the south - has increased two years in a row and is now at highest level in 35 years:
Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world.
On Saturday, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to data posted on the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site.  That number bested record high levels set earlier this month and in 2012 (of 19.48 million square kilometers). Records date back to October 1978.
Remember: With their computer models, scientists cannot accurately predict the weather three days out; why should we believe them and their computer models when they try to predict the weather thirty years out?

Though the temperature of the southern waters is increasing, so, too, is the level of ice, despite the warnings and models of scientists, for which they have no explanation.  Still, against the evidence, they still continue to insist on melting ice:
If the increase in ice is due to natural variability, Zhang says, warming from manmade greenhouse gases should eventually overcome it and cause the ice to begin retreating.
“If the warming continues, at some point the trend will reverse,” Zhang said.
The inconvenient truth is that their theory seems simply to be wrong.  Under normal circumstances, this would cause a scientist to change his hypothesis and continue along the path of actual science; however, when your hypothesis is founded not on science but on politics and ideology, such a change is impossible.

What's life like in Italy?

A few of you have kindly asked what daily life is like here in Italy and how it differs from life in the United States of America.

Before I left Springfield, a priest friend showed the following video to me, which describes the difference between Italy and the rest of Europe, which I found then to be hilarious and entirely accurate:

It's a video I've been meaning to share for a while now and I'm not sure why I haven't remembered to post it until now.  Whatever the reason, I hope you enjoy it as much I do.  Just know that it isn't exaggerated.

23 September 2013

Majority Leader says Illinois should approve same-sex "marrige" to boost economy

In a letter to the members of the Illinois House of Representatives, Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) urged House of Representatives to pass the so-called Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act because Illinois should not miss this opportunity for economic growth, according to the Quad City Times.  What happened to the calls for fairness and equality?

I have been unable to locate a copy of the letter and most news reports are identical and do not provide substantive quotes, but WISTV reports that the Majority Leader sees in the debate surrounding same-sex "marriage" "an economic component that we cannot ignore."

The State Journal-Register reports that the Majority Leader also said that everyone should have the right to demonstrate their love.  Leaving aside the obvious point that demonstrations of love are not reserved for marriage, one wonders, then, why the RFMFA forbids certain people of the same sex from marrying each other.  One might also wonder why three people could not enter a marriage.

Some will likely say nothing in the proposed legislation would legalize incest or polygamy, but the trajectory of her thoughts easily head in these directions.  If marriage is only about the economy and demonstrations of love, where does it stop?

With the possibility of the RFMFA being called to a vote in the House looming in the near future, it is encouraging that the proposed legislation may still be ten votes short for passage.  Even so, we cannot simply sit by.  Please, contact your Representative and urge him to vote against the bill, remind her of the lies that were told before the passage of the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union bill, and of the real dangers the RFMFA poses to religious freedom.

Remember the recent words of Pope Francis:
None of us can say, "I have nothing to do with this, they govern. . . ." No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!
We must act!

21 September 2013

The inconsistency of the media

If you do not think the secular media has a narrative already in play into which they force every "report" they write, think again.

Consider, first, the media's exceedingly happy receptivity to a few words of Pope Francis in an interview he recently gave.

Consider, second, these words Pope Benedict spoke on November 9th, 2006:
I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.
If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.
Isn't it curious how the media then did not go react in a similar way as they did two days ago?  Of course not!

We know their narrative: Pope Benedict XVI was the "panzer-cardinal," the conservative and unbending dogmatist; Pope Francis is humble and reform-minded and not a "conservative" like his predecessor.

On the media and the Church: Don't be a lemming!

Many members of the international media are pouncing on a series of interviews the Holy Father Pope Francis gave to the Reverend Antonio Sparado, S.J. published by America – according to the web site – on September 30, 2013 (I’m not sure how that works).  Please, read the full interview for yourself and compare the full context to how the media has reported the interview.

The various news articles that implied, suggested, or stated that Pope Francis said the Church should not be talking about abortion, marriage, and sexual relations were simply wrong and these reports were made by taking a few sentences from a lengthy interview very much out of context.  But, then, this is the way of the media, especially when it comes to reporting on events in the life of the Church.

Here I will not link to the numerous reports; you have likely read and heard them already and sending you to them will not really be of my help and will only encourage them to continue.

I had not planned to make any comment on the interview and the media’s distortion of his words, but because many of you have asked me to do so, I will.

First, a reminder and caution: Do not trust the secular media’s portrayal of what happens within the life of the Church!  How many times will so many be deliberately deceived and intentionally misinformed by the media before they finally begin to read the actual words of the Pope or Bishops or priests or religious or laity – whatever the case may be – for themselves?  Generally, none of these are difficult to obtain, thanks to the Internet, and they are generally not of great length.  Please, do not be a lemming!  Read and think for yourself, and take all of this into prayer!

That said, as I sat down to read the interview I was immediately struck by one thing the Holy Father said: “The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace is not luxurious. It is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious.”

The "living room" of the Papal Apartment
The dining room of the Papal Apartment
The study of the Papal Apartment
If the media cannot correctly report on the physical condition of the Papal Apartment, why should they believed about anything else?  It is high time everyone began to think critically about everything the media says about the Church.  Look into the sources and check them for yourself; if they sources are "an anonymous Vatican official," read the report with a truckload of salt.

The cynic in me finds it exceedingly curious that the media has not trumpeted these words far and wide since they are, as they so often tell us, in the business of reporting the truth.  Remember how they fawned all over Pope Francis when he shunned the “luxury” of the Papal Apartment and chose to live instead in an apartment in the Domus Santa Marta?

The study in the Domus Santa Marta
The bedroom in the Domus Santa Marta
The sitting room in the Domus Santa Marta
Frankly, the rooms in the Domus Santa Marta have always seem more luxurious to me than the rooms of the Papal Apartment.

Why has the media not corrected this bit of misinformation?  The answer is obvious: it would begin the unraveling of their false narrative which is superimposed on every article they begin to think about writing.

What next caught my attention was a blunt admission on the part of the Holy Father: "My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative."  As we read reports of Pope Francis wanting my move the Church in a more "collegial" direction, this admission seems a bit striking.

It is true that over time he did develop a more collegial style and met frequently with those who worked closely with him, as he goes on to say; still, his admission would add an interesting context for this development and his desire to work with the group of eight Cardinals.

The attention of the media has disproportionately focused on these few words said by Pope Francis and so we come to the purpose of this post: "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible."

Let me first say that I have never encountered anyone the Church - cleric, religious, or lay - who only speaks of these three issues.

Second, these words are quoted as if they were said in a vacuum, as if the Holy Father were admonishing those who work so publicly in the defense of life and of marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality.  Yet just before he said these words the Pope spoke of the sacrament of confession:

This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?
It was immediately after these words that Pope Francis spoke the words the media so dearly loves.  Here the Holy Father is urging confessors not to focus solely on these three issue in the confessional because above all the penitent must encounter the merciful love of Jesus Christ, as he said earlier in the interview:
The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.
Sometimes a confessor rightly and mercifully heals the wounds of a sinner with a heavy penance and other times a lighter penance is needed; some sinners know that, for the good of their own souls and their growth in the love of God and neighbor, that a severe penance is needed and others know that a lighter one is needed, particularly for those who still question God's mercy.  If the confessor enters the confessional with the proper attitude, that is, to heal the wounded and not simply to cover up a wound, he knows that, as Pope Francis also said, "it is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing."

In their many reports, the media could easily have reported on what the Pope said when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

On abortion:
Abortion is never a solution. We must listen, support, and understand from where we stand in order to save two lives: to respect the smallest and most defenseless human being, to take steps that can preserve his life, to allow his birth, and then be creative in finding ways to help him reach his full development.
On gay marriage:
What is at stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. What is at stake are the lives of so many children who are discriminated against in advance, deprived of the human maturation that God wanted to give them with a father and a mother. What is at stake is a direct rejection of God’s law, which is also engraved in our hearts. Let’s not be naive: it is not just a political struggle; it is a destructive claim against God's plan. It is not merely a legislative bill (this is only the instrument) but a move by the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.
I have not been able to find a quote from him on the use of contraception, but his opposition to its free distribution in Argentina is well known.

None of this is difficult work for a reporter who is not burdened by an ideology.

17 September 2013

A Call to Prayer from the U.S. Bishops for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty

Oct. 23rd Defend Marriage Lobby Day in Illinois

In his homily during the Holy Mass yesterday morning, His Holiness Pope Francis spoke of the obligation of Catholics to participate in the political life, saying:
None of us can say, "I have nothing to do with this, they govern. . . ." No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!

Each of us has a moral obligation to be involved in politics; we must not forget this!

With the return of the Illinois General Assembly October 22-24 and November 5-7, the possibility looms before us of the calling of Senate Bill 10, the "Nursing Home Care Act" to which an amendment has been added that would create the misnamed "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" (notice that it is not a bill in its own right).  SB 10 passed the Illinois Senate in the last session but did not have enough votes to be called to the floor of the House.

If you have forgotten how this amendment came to pass and how deceptive it is as proven by the passage of the so-called Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, please refresh your memory by catching up here.  Be sure to watch the questioning from Senator Righter to understand the danger this bill poses to religious liberty in Illinois.

While Senate Bill 10 is not presently being discussed in the open, there is every reason to believe that when it is called for a vote it will be done quickly and quietly so the Representatives and Senators will not be able to hear from their constituents.

With this in mind, the Catholic Conference of Illinois is sponsoring a "Defend Marriage Lobby Day" at the Capitol on October 23rd from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  A similar day was held last February when more than 3,500 Illinois visited with their elected officials or their representatives to speak out against this proposed legislation.  Will you join their numbers in a few short weeks?  If you attended the day in February, I urge you to do so again.

The schedule for the day is as follows:

9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.     Prayer rally outside at the Lincoln statue

11 a.m. - 1 p.m.            Marriage rally in the Rotunda - Msgr. Carl Kemme, V.F. will speak.

1 p.m. - 3 p.m.             Prayer rally in the Rotunda

1 p.m.                            Jericho prayer walk around the Capitol from the Lincoln statue

All day                           Lobby your state representative

Please, mark this important day on your calendar and make every effort to attend.  Spread the word to your family and friends.  Let us defend authentic marriage and our religious liberty!