28 February 2014

Is a "line-by-line retelling" of Noah possible? An unnecessary "explanatory message"

The story of Noah and the great flood has long been a favorite of children and many story books have been written and drawn about it (and even various play sets), but in the process much of the actual Biblical story has been largely watered down (pun intended).

From the church of San Maurizio, Milan, Italy
But this "safer" portrayal of the destructive flood may soon be balanced with a new film produced by Paramount Pictures to be released in U.S. theaters on March 28, 2014.

For reasons I cannot fully comprehend, Paramount Pictures has decided to place an "explanatory message" at the beginning of the forthcoming film Noah:


I do not watch a lot of movies but very much very enjoyed Russell Crowe's performance in Gladiator and Jennifer Connelly's performance in Labyrinth (I'm not sure if I've seen either of them in different films). The trailer for Noah looks very good and I hope to see the film after it opens here in Rome in mid-April. Now, on to the purpose of this post.

The wording of the above mentioned disclaimer is as follows (I would like to the actual movie web site, where it can also be found, but I cannot manage to find a way to connect to the English version, only the Italian version, which will not be very helpful for most of you):


The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.
What is the need for such a disclaimer, you ask? A panel discussion at a meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters suggested such verbiage would help "audiences better understand that the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story." Honestly, is it not obvious that the film is a dramatization and not a literal account?

I dare say, this move will not help with the media's happy portrayal of most Christians as unthinking dolts, for several reasons.

First, it demonstrates how little of the Scriptural account of the life of Noah most Christians - even "fundamentalist Bible Christians" - actually know. The life of Noah is told in Genesis 6-9. The filmmakers have, then, just four short chapters from which to make, as they say, a major motion picture event (though his birth is briefly mentioned in the final verse of chapter 5 and his sons born after the flood are mentioned in the first verse of chapter 10). These four chapters in which Noah has a central part, much of which is descriptive, are simply not of sufficient length to make a full-length film following "a line-by-line retelling."

Second, attempting to create a movie following the account in Genesis "line-by-line" would be most difficult if not impossible, as even a cursory glance at the preparatory account of the flood would show:
  • In Genesis 6:19, God instructs Noah to bring "two of every sort" of every living thing of all flesh (birds, animals, and creeping things).
  • In Genesis 7:2, God seems to alter his command to Noah, this time telling him to bring "seven pairs of all clean animals" and "a pair of the animals that are not clean" and "seven pairs of the birds of the air".
  • Then, curiously, in Genesis 7:8, when Noah begins loading the ark he brings on board, "of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female". More than one pair of every clean kind would be needed after the flood when Noah "took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Genesis 8:20) and let's not forget the animals that would surely soon be eaten (Genesis 9:3).
  • Even once Noah enters the ark, the numbers are confused. In Genesis 7:15 we are told that "two and two of all flesh" entered the ark with Noah, but in verse 16 it seems that only "male and female of all flesh" (that is, one pair) boarded the ark.
How is one to reconcile these different numbers in a simple way for a film while stilling maintaining a "line-by-line retelling"?

Better yet, how are we to reconcile these seemingly contradictory accounts with the Scriptures themselves? It's a question I've pondered for years but is one that does not seem to have concerned the Fathers (who don't seem to mention it) or the biblical scholars (who simply say it is a matter of two separate sources (the so-called J and P traditions, which is not very satisfactory) having been brought together without smoothing out the rough edges, if you will.

Third, in regards to time, the greater part of the story concerns the 40 days of rain and flood (7:12) - or perhaps 80 (7:17) days or even 150 days (8:3) - where not a lot besides the drowning of men and beasts alike occurs. You cannot very well making a movie depicting 40 days of continuous rain. Nor can you show another two weeks simply sitting around on the ark waiting for the waters to disperse. That would become tediously dull rather quickly.

Fourth, regardless of how you figure the numbers, there certainly seem to be two separate accounts that have been interwoven with mixed results and repeated elements of the story.


When considering all of this and what to make of it, we have to remember that the Old Testament cannot be fully understood without being read in light of the New Testament (and vice versa). This is why Saint Peter wrote:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (I Peter 3:18-22).

The joy of Italian scheduling

N.B.: This post was written yesterday afternoon and mistakenly save as a draft instead of published.

You may have heard the old joke about heaven and hell which employs common stereotypes about some of the European countries:
Heaven Is Where:
The French are the chefs
The Italians are the lovers
The British are the police
The Germans are the mechanics
And the Swiss make everything run on time
Hell is Where:
The British are the chefs
The Swiss are the lovers
The French are the mechanics
The Italians make everything run on time
And the Germans are the police
If often happens that such stereotypes are based on some shred of reality. Having now lived in Italy these past months, I know the one about the Italians to be true. If you don't the stereotype, similar consider this example, which is not atypical of the Italian academic system.

One of my classes meets at 8:30 every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings. This week, though, the professor was not available on Monday and Tuesday (which has been nice) so the office of the canon law faculty rescheduled the classes for March 5th at 8:30 and at 9:30.

Apparently, though, they forgot to check with the professor, who is not available that morning because he has another class on Wednesday mornings. Consequently, the rescheduled classes were rescheduled for March 4th at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. This change was communicated to us a few days ago.

A few moments ago we received another e-mail about these twice rescheduled classes. For reasons not explained, they are now being rescheduled for the fourth time, this time to March 11th and March 18th at 11:30 a.m.

For years I have kept my daily calendar with a pencil (I tried to move to an electronic calendar but I do not like them). Now I am especially glad I use a pencil.

27 February 2014

A good use for The Message?

Several years ago I stumbled upon a curious little book, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, which purported to be a translation of the Sacred Scriptures. In fact, it was not even a close approximation to a paraphrase, something that Thomas McDonald has cleverly described as "both brain-scramblingly bad and fitfully heretical."

Since that day I've made it something of a personal mission to see that such things like The Message or The Good News Bible are never given out on retreats on which I serve. Why? They are not adequate translations of the Sacred Writ and do not help to engender true faith and devotion. When Saint Augustine picked up a Latin translation of the Bible after he had read the works of Cicero, he threw it out because the quality of the translation was so poor and uneducated. It was decades before he picked up the Scriptures again, this time with a proper translation. I suspect something similar happens today, it greater numbers than we'd like to think.

What, then, should we do with things like The Message? You might consider keeping it in your pocket to stop bullet or three.

26 February 2014

Reconsidering Pope Francis: A picture worth a thousand words?

Over the last several days much has been made about the nineteen men whom Pope Francis created Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church this past Sunday. For example, John L. Allen, Jr., among others, sees in the Holy Father's choices an emphasis on the poor. Sandro Magister, however, has a more sober impression of the Holy Father's choices and what he means by them:
In the first consistory of his pontificate, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has not been tender with the caste of the cardinals.

At the opening of the assembly, he charged them with "rivalry, envy, factions." And in the closing homily, with "intrigues, gossip, cliques, favoritism, preferential treatment."

And yet it is to this hardly esteemed college of cardinals that Francis has entrusted the first important high-level discussion on the topic of the upcoming synod of bishops, the family, at a time like the present - the pope said - in which it "is despised, is mistreated."

The synod on the family was the focal point of the meetings held at the Vatican in recent days. The whole college of cardinals dedicated two days to it, February 20 and 21. And for two more days, the 24th and 25th, it was the project of the council of the general secretariat of the synod, which is a bit like the elective aristocracy of the worldwide Catholic hierarchy.
As I read Magister's words this morning, I could not help by think of a picture taken of the Holy Father during the celebration of the Holy Mass this Sunday in the Basilica of St. Peter:


To be sure, this is a meme worthy image and I'm rather surprised none have yet circulated with it.

I know not who took the photo; I saw it in a Facebook album of pictures taken during the Mass. I also do not know who it is - or why - who is receiving "the look" (I did not notice anything out of place at this). This is an image of Pope Francis that we do not see in the media, who shows us only pictures of Pope Francis carrying his own bag, kissing a baby, or embracing the ill. 

Now, I know that sometimes the camera will snap a picture at just the right moment in such a way that the image seen is not an accurate portrayal of what the sentiments that transpired. But, given that it would only be a few seconds after this picture was taken that Pope Francis would criticize the Cardinals for "courtly" behavior, it seems a fairly accurate representation.

As I said, this shows a side of the Holy Father we do not often see, the side of him that is more than blunt and straightforward, even to the point of being insulting, even if remaining honest.

Last week, over at Get Religion, Jim Davis in which he rightly noted that "Pope Francis doesn't always sound like Mr. Nice Guy." The entire article is worth your read, but I wish to highlight one a quote Davis takes from Laurence England:
Indeed, here’s some of the names the Pope has actually called people: “pickled pepper-faced Christians,” “closed, sad, trapped Christians,” “defeated Christians,” “liquid Christians,” “creed-reciting, parrot Christians,” and, finally, those “watered-down faith, weak-hoped Christians.”
Catholics who focus on church traditions are “museum mummies,” the Pope says. Nuns who fail to inspire faith in the church are “old maids,” and the Vatican hierarchy has at times been “the leprosy of the papacy,” in Francis’ words.
Indeed, men of the cloth face the brunt of Francis’ fulminations. He has called some of them “vain” butterflies, “smarmy” idolators and “priest-tycoons.” He’s described some seminarians as potential “little monsters.”
This list is not conclusive and has been satirically referred to as The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults.

I don't bring this up because I do not like Pope Francis; I bring it up so that we can come to a better understanding of who he is and to what he calls us. When pointing sin, Pope Francis, like Jesus, does not mince words. In reconsidering the common assessment of Pope Francis as nothing more than a smiling face, a reconsideration of the common assessment of Jesus as just a nice guy must also be down.

Will the ordination of a married man in St. Louis "open the doors for more wedded priests in some Catholic churches"?

News out of St. Louis is currently drawing national attention and leading someone to ponder - yet again and rather predictably - if the door to a "married priesthood" may soon be opening. On Thursday evening a married man who has previously been ordained a deacon will be ordained a priest:
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – Pope Francis has given permission for a St. Louis deacon, who is married, to be ordained into the priesthood.
Deacon Wissam Akiki will be ordained this week at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral. He will be the first married man to be ordained into priesthood under the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church, according to Eparchy of our Lady of Lebanon Deacon Louis Peters [more].
The first question to consider here is an obvious one: What is the Maronite Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church is comprised, if you will, of two rites, the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rite, both of which have valid Sacraments and acknowledge the authority of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Both rites, the Latin and the Eastern, are said to be sui iuris, that is, they are autonomous and have their own laws and disciplines while adhering to the faith of the Apostles.

The Latin Rite - which is also known as the Western Rite or the Roman Rite (which is why we are called Roman Catholics) - is governed by the Code of Canon Law.  In the Latin rite, a married man may be ordained a deacon but not a priest (except, in rare circumstances and by the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, in the case of a man who was baptized outside of the Catholic Church [both Latin and Eastern rites], was married outside of the Church, was a minister in Protestant denomination, and has since been received into the full communion of the Catholic Church and requests the Sacrament of Holy Orders, such as Father Dwight Longenecker). If a deacon's wife should die, he may not marry again (except in rare circumstances, for the good of young children, and with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff).

Note, here, that the issue does not involve having "married clergy," but having married men who are then ordained clerics.  There is a difference. Even in the early years of Christianity when married men were ordained as priests, once ordained a priest he could not enter into marriage.

The Eastern Church is comprised of 21 autonomous Churches who follow 5 different liturgical rites (ceremonies, if you will):
  1. the Alexandrian rite, which includes the Coptic and Ethiopian Churches;
  2. the Antiochene rite, which includes the Malankar, Maronite, and Syrian Churches;
  3. the Byzantine rite, which includes the Albanian, Byelorussian, Bulgarian, Greek, Italo-Albanian, Yugoslavian, Melkite, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Slovakian, Ukranian, and Hungarian Churches;
  4. the Chaldean rite, which includes the Chaldean and Malabar Churches; and,
  5. the Armenian rite, which includes the Armenian Church.
The Eastern rite allows married men to be ordained priests, but their bishops must be chosen from those priests who have embraced a celibate life and, hence, were not married before receiving Holy Orders. You've likely seen some of these priests in the media spotlight in recent weeks as they stood in the square in Kiev:

PHOTO: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images
Now, back to St. Louis. The married man who will be ordained a priest is a member of one of these Churches, the Maronite Church.

Both the Latin and Eastern Churches are fully Catholic. As such, the claim of the USA Today that the ordination of Deacon Akiki to the priesthood of Jesus Christ is "a move that could open the doors for more wedded priests in some Catholic churches across the USA" is a bit misleading.

Will this ordination open the doors for married men to be ordained in the Latin rite? No.

Still, in 1929, with the issuance of Cum Data Fuerit, the Holy See decreed that priests of the Eastern rites in North and South America - but not in other parts of the world - should be celibate. Might this ordination, then, open the doors for more married men to be ordained in the Eastern rites in the U.S.? Perhaps.

25 February 2014

An unexpected visitor

A few moments ago as I sat down to work on e-mail the land-line telephone in my room rang, a most uncommon occurrence. On the other end was the secretary of the Casa Santa Maria who called to say there was a woman at the door to see me.  Living in a country which is not my own and in a city where I only know a couple of people, I wondered who it could possible be.

When I arrived at the front door, I was both surprised and pleased to see one of the women who stayed a few days at the Casa Papa Giovanni in Assisi when I was also staying there this summer to begin learning the Italian language. We had a few conversations at table together and before I left Assisi to return to Rome she asked if she could take a picture of me outside of the Casa Papa Giovanni, the better to remember to pray for me:


She very thoughtfully stopped by today to give me a copy of the picture since she was in the area for the day. In addition to the photo, she also brought greetings from the staff of the Casa Papa Giovanni who look forward to seeing me again. Soon I shall have to take a weekend in Assisi; it will soon be warm enough to have another hike up Monte Subasio.

Much like the Hawaiians, the Italians are remarkable in that once they meet you and have a meal with you, you are very much a part of their family even if you see each other only rarely.

Vatican City State leads world in wine consumption

Fully aware that wine gladdens the heart, Catholics have long enjoyed alcoholic beverages, so much so that certain stereotypes about Catholics and the drinking of alcoholic have come about (cf. Psalm 104:15). A recent study may help to reinforce that stereotype:
ROME (RNS) Tiny Vatican City consumes more wine per capita than any other country in the world, according to information from the California-based Wine Institute.
According to the Wine Institute’s latest statistics, the Vatican consumed 74 liters of wine per person, around double the per-capita consumption of Italy as a whole. A standard bottle of wine is about .75 liters.
Before jumping to the stereotypical conclusion that most priests are alcoholics (a stereotype that was quite popular before the sexual abuse scandal, a scandal which has yielded a different stereotype), it would be wise to give legitimate consideration to what may lead to such a statistic:
And while some of that consumption is clearly related to ceremonial Communion wine, Italian press reports say it’s more likely because Vatican residents are older (the lack of children are figured into the statistics), are overwhelmingly male, are highly educated and tend to eat communally — all factors that tend to lead toward higher wine consumption.
Another factor: the Vatican’s small size that makes it easy for per-capita figures to be distorted by the activities of a small group, or in the case of the Vatican, a single supermarket that sells wines almost tax-free.
All things considered, this survey does not tell us much or, frankly, matter very much at all.  Even so, I can imagine various places where it might be used to further an anti-Catholic prejudice.

At the same time, I can imagine various places where Catholics might attempt to use to encourage drinking to extremes. We must remember that while wine does gladden the heart, Saint Paul clears exhorts us, "Do not get drunk on wine, in which  lies debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). There is a balance to be maintained.

Pope: Authentic love comes from Jesus

Much has been written about the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that will meet in October to consider the "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization." As the preparatory work for this Synod is undertaken, His Holiness Pope Francis has written to families to invite them to pray for the work of the Synod.

The text of the Holy Father's letter, which was written on February 2nd and released today, follows, with my emphases:
Dear families,

With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”. Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.

This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord.
It would be very good if every pastor would print this letter in their bulletins - and even read it at Mass - so that every family might see it and take his words to heart.

Questions to ask before entering into Lent

With Ash Wednesday now being just seven days away, the beginning of Lent will soon be upon us. If you listen attentively to the readings of Sacred Scripture which will be proclaimed for our meditation in these coming days at the Holy Mass, we will discern a summons to a sort of preparation for the coming days which will be given over to increased prayer, faster, and alms-giving.

Today, for example, the Apostle James admonishes us with these words: "So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you" (James 4:7-10).

There is a constant temptation for us to be of two minds, on the hand to be focused and attached to the things of this world and on the other hand to be continually drawn to set our focus and to attach ourselves to the things of heaven. Most often than not we struggle back and forth between the two. In these days as Lent approaches, we would do well to prayerfully consider our attachments, asking honestly to what we are attached and what attachments need to be broken, lessened, or strengthened.

To this end, Saint Anthony of Padua proposes a series of questions we would well to take to prayer:
What are those things worthy of a prince that you should devise, O prince, spirit of man? Only to return into yourself, enter your own heart, and there take counsel; what you are, what you might have been, what you ought to be, what you could be. What you might have been by nature, what you are by guilt, what you ought to be by effort, what you can still be by grace (Sermon for the Chair of Peter, 3).

24 February 2014

Dinner and Arthur

Life here at the Casa Santa Maria is filled with many blessings, but the least of which is the many fine priests with whom I live. We have with us here at the Casa two priests from England and seven from Australia. This evening I had an enjoyable conversation with one of the Englishmen.

Our conversation began with the Battle of Hastings and then moved to the Magna Carta and then turned toward King Arthur. The conversation ranged from his origin and history, geographic and archeology, and ended up - naturally enough - with the legends that built up around him.

It is rare to find someone willing to talk about King Arthur and even more rare to find someone who actually knows something about the early history of England and about the Legends of the Knights of the Round Table. It has been far too long since I've had such a conversation!

We ended dinner right about 7:45 p.m. and every Monday night we have "English Night" at 8:45 p.m., which means watching a British comedy or two (and sometimes more) before calling it a day. With studies beginning early in the early in the morning and being sometime tiring (being taught in a foreign language and all) - and after along walk this afternoon - I knew that I did not want to return to studies for this interim hour but I was not quite sure what I did want to do. Now I know: I shall sit down with Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur and delve into the legends.

22 February 2014

A simple gesture rich in meaning

At this moment, as His Holiness Pope Francis creates 19 Cardinals for service to Holy Mother Church, His Holiness Benedict XVI is present at the consistory (in his white cassock and overcoat [because it is often quite chilly inside]) being held in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

As Pope Francis approached the altar he paused for a moments to greet his predecessor:

Notice that Benedict XVI has removed his zuchetto and holds it in his left hand as he embraces Pope Francis.

Whenever a Bishop or Cardinal - or anyone else entitled to wear the zuchetto - is in the presence of the Bishop of Rome, etiquette requires the junior to remove his zuchetto in the presence of the superior. By this simple gesture, Benedict XVI has demonstrated that he is not the Supreme Pontiff and that Pope Francis is his legitimate successor, contrary to recent claims by certain members in the international media.

A chair and a boat

Because Saint Peter was a fisherman by trade before the Lord called after himself and it was to Peter entrusted the care of his Church, the Church has often been called the Barque (a type of ship) of Peter. This is why the central part of the church where the faithful gather is the called the nave, a word closely connected with naval and navy.

In one of his sermons for today's Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Saint Anthony of Padua connected the symbolism of the chair with that of the ship:
Alternatively, the 'chair' is the remembrance of death, in which one sits by humbling oneself. No one can steer his boat properly, unless he takes care to sit in the stern. The 'boat', narrow at the front and the rear, but wide in the middle, is human life, which is narrow indeed at its entrance and exit, which are wretched and bitter, but wide in the middle, wandering and wanton. No one can steer it properly unless he takes care to humble himself in the remembrance of death. And note that it says 'wisest'. The steersman who sits in the stern, the rearmost part of the ship, is, and must be, the wisest of all. He sees everyone, watches over everything, stirs up the lazy, encourages those who labor, promises a lull in the storm - indeed, calm - and cheers them up with the hope of a good harbor. In this way, he who humbles himself in the remembrance of death arranges his whole life properly, and supervises its circumstances. He knows well how to eradicate idleness, strengthen himself in labor, hope in the Lord's mercy in time of adversity, and direct his life to the harbor of eternal life (Sermon on the Chair of Saint Peter, 10).
Peter sat on his chair, his seat of over authority to watch over the ship of the Church, first at Antioch and then at Rome, where he gave his life for his Master.

The task of every Pope is to help us to steer the boats of our lives across the waters the life - sometimes calm and other times tumultuous - safely into the harbor of heaven. He does so by showing and teaching us to live the Gospel faithfully and with integrity and he points out the dangerous waters by reminding of sin and calling us to repentance.

Let us today pray for Pope Francis, that he may be a wise and prudent helmsman, and let us pray also for ourselves, that we will always seek to remain in his barque and do as our captain bids.

Kudos to Winfield

Early this morning I took a look at an article published by the Associated Press written by Luis Anders Henao and Nicole Winfield concerning a priest in Chile who has been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance but has defied by the Holy See.

Being somewhat familiar with Winfield's work, I wondered what misrepresentations I would read. Imagine my surprise when I read, albeit at the very end of the article, these words:
Under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican streamlined its procedures to allow for such swifter, administrative sanctions to punish priests when the evidence against them is overwhelming.
This acknowledgment comes shortly after explaining with the priest in question received an administrative judgment without going through a full canonical trial: "Rather than subject the priests and victims to a lengthy church trial, which might not end before the priest in question dies, the Vatican can impose an administrative sanction such as the one Karadima received, which essentially renders the man a priest in name only."

Here one clarification need be made: although he does not have permission to function as a priest, he is still a priest, in more than only; the sacrament of Holy Orders, like Baptism and Confirmation, cannot be taken away.

Now, what was that I read? The media actually admitted that the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith actually made the process of such cases smoother, faster, and did not attempt a cover up? It's about time!  Kudos to Nicole Winfield!

Can you be governed by a male queen? The UK says no

In 1823, in his poem "Don Jaun," the English poet George Gordon Lord Byron wrote:
' Tis strange - but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!
How oft would vice and virtue places change!
The new world would be nothing to the old,
If some Columbus of the moral seas
Would show mankind their souls' antipodes.
Though Lord Byron himself did not always live a morally uprightly life, he did foresee the coming time when vice would be called virtue and virtue would be called vice.  Such a time is now upon us, when truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

In various places throughout the world as the push for same-sex "marriage" holds ever fiercer hold, various legal forms are being revised to replace "Mother" and "Father" with "Parent A" and "Parent B," or something similar and equally farcical. In the United Kingdom, however, things have become even more bizarre:
Men are to be banned from becoming Queen or Princess of Wales as part of an unprecedented effort to rewrite more than 700 years of law to prevent unintended consequences of gay marriage.
Even a 14th Century act declaring it high treason to have an affair with the monarch’s husband or wife is included in the sweeping redrafting exercise.
Civil servants have drawn up a list of scores of statutes and regulations dating back as far 1285 to be amended or specifically excluded when the Government’s Same-Sex Marriage Act comes into force next month [more]. 
Though ours is often touted as an enlightened time, I'm not so confident it is.

21 February 2014

Bringing smiles - one ring at a time - and feeling old

I've never really enjoyed talking on the telephone (I prefer face-to-face conversations), but whenever my cell phone rings in public I have a few moments of subtle bliss as a result of my ringtone.  The reaction is always the same.

When the first notes sound, eyes turn towards me as people try to determine what they are hearing.  Then, slowly, a look of intrigue comes to their faces which gives way to an certain expression as they think they recognize the tone, but doubt themselves.  Then, suddenly, as recognition dawns, people are nothing but smiles as happy childhood memories return.

If you know this music and I love it as I do, you'll understand the common reaction when my phone rings:


I suspect the smiles come both because they love the music and because they don't expect a priest to have this as his ringtone.

Why do I bring this up?  Because 27 years ago today The Legend of Zelda was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System:
And with that, I suddenly feel very old.  Back in grade school, whenever I was bored in class, I would make little doodles of Link. I was particularly proud one year when I draw him on one of my brown paper bag book covers.

Tolton: An example of hope against despair

When Saint Paul wrote to the early Christians in Corinth, he exhorted them with a brief and profound statement: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). So closely did the Apostle to the Gentiles imitate the Lord Jesus that he could rightly say, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).  When see in these two sentences that who seeks to imitate the life of Saint Paul will, through imitation, come to imitate Jesus Christ and to become united with him.

This is the theological principle at work whenever Holy Mother Church presents certain lives of the saints to us, whether by means of the liturgical calendar or through another means.  We know that Saint Paul is not only follower of the Lord who imitated him to the point of conformity and so others can make his words their own.  In this way, we can also imitate Christ by imitating them.

In most every area of life we need guides or models to follow to learn the ropes, as it were.  We have teachers and tutors to help us with our academics; we have colleagues who train us in a new position at work; we are friends who teach us new hobbies.  The Christian life is no exception.

His Holiness Benedict XVI explained this aspect of life simply and well in his encyclical Spe salvi (Saved by Hope):
Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way (49). 
Each of these lights reflects the light of Jesus Christ, but each one does so with its own subtlety, a point Benedict XVI highlighted in his many catecheses on the saints by concluding them with several things (usually three in number) we can learn to do from each one of their lives.

For this reason, while continually turning our attention to the saints of old, the Church presents new such lights to us and is constantly on the lookout for new lights, as in the person of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton.

A picture on my wall in Rome
I mention all of this simply because I read a short ago a little article by Dr. C. Vanessa White in U.S. Catholic that serves as a brief introduction to the life of Father Gus in which she mentions she has learned from him:


His sense of hope in the midst of overwhelming challenges has guided me to “keep on keepin’ on” when despair appears to be knocking at my door.

I know very well what she means.  Because he was also raised in Quincy, studied in Rome, and served in (what is now) the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois - three things I have in common with him - I find myself frequently calling upon his intercession.  I see in Father Tolton what Benedict XVI said about the saints: "The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope" (Spe salvi, 39).

If you haven't yet found such heavenly light, intercessor, and companion the coming season of Lent would be a perfect time to pick up a book on the lives of the saints.  Spend a few minutes each day reading about one or two of their lives and seeing what you might learn from them better imitate Jesus Christ and so become a light for others.

His sense of hope in the midst of overwhelming challenges has guided me to “keep on keepin’ on” when despair appears to be knocking at my door. - See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201402/augustus-tolton-pioneer-pastor-28450#sthash.tzB0cUuS.dpuf