29 September 2010

Paprocki responds to Planned Parenthood

In today's issue of the State Journal-Register the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki reponds to an invitation and criticism from Planned Parenthood given through the SJ-R's article on a march and protest outside of the Planned Parenthood building.

The text of his editorial - titled "A counteroffer to Planned Parenthood" - follows, with my emphases:

In response to my challenge to Planned Parenthood at our peaceful prayer march to their clinic last Friday, Pam Sutherland, vice president for public policy for Planned Parenthood, is quoted as saying, “Any patient who is considering abortion gets an ultrasound, and we ask if they would like to see it” (The State Journal-Register, Sept. 25).

If so, I welcome this change in Planned Parenthood’s policy, since this has not always been their practice.

In light of this change, they should also have no problem supporting the Ultrasound Opportunity Act (HB 5743), introduced by 18 co-sponsors in the Illinois House. The Ultrasound Opportunity Act would require abortion facilities to offer a woman seeking an abortion the opportunity to view her baby in an ultrasound and would set standards for the quality of the ultrasound image. The facility would also be required to document the woman’s response to the offer. I await Planned Parenthood’s endorsement and support for this bill.

Sutherland also invited me to work with them “to help reduce the need for abortion by making sure women have access to comprehensive birth control.”

I decline the invitation since I don’t buy into the myth that contraception will reduce abortion. In fact, the contraceptive mentality does just the opposite.

Instead, I invite Planned Parenthood to join the majority of Americans who oppose abortion on demand.

Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois

26 September 2010

Around the blogosphere

  • Dominican friar Graham Hunt used a photograph from the Mass of Installation of the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in his post explaining the recessional of the Mass
  • Greg Erlandson asks, "Has CNN no shame?"
  • A Catholic Mom in Hawaii suggests how we can ask for a stamp of Father Damien.

What the Pope Knew

Greg Erlandson offers his thoughts about CNN's "What the Pope Knew." In part, he says in his post, "CNN's missed opportunity":

Most compelling about the special were the conversations with the victims. To hear them describe their shame, to see their anger all these years later at what priests did to them, is to be reminded yet again that terrible crimes were done and many lives were damaged, even ruined. That fact no one can deny.

It is unfortunate that, even in the television wasteland of weekend evening cable, CNN did not see fit to make a real contribution to a better understanding of the crisis. It would have helped, for example, if Tuchman had shed light on the Church’s own understanding of canon law regarding ordination, the priesthood and sexual abuse violations.

CNN could also have talked at greater length with bishops like Archbishop Weakland and Bishop * Cummins of Oakland to find out why they found it so hard to supervise abuser priests with the authority they always possessed. And Tuchman might have documented the many changes the Church has made to safeguard children and root out dangerous priests, while putting it all within a larger context: How society has grown in its understanding of the crime of sexual abuse, and how other organizations, like the Church, have been improving their safeguards as well, often looking to the Church for advice on how to do this.

If CNN had been less focused on bolstering a lawyer’s self-serving efforts to build a case and had sought to update the public’s understanding of a scandal, it might have actually performed a service, instead of tarnishing its own fading reputation for solid reporting.
The rest of his thoughts can be read here.

Homily - 26 September 2010

The Twenty-sixth Sunday of the Year (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Said Abraham to the rich man now suffering torment, “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented” (Luke 16:25). Are we then to infer from this statement that the afterlife is simply a reversal of the present life? Of course not!

While a reversal is indeed the case here, we need not be too simplistic with this story. We need not assume the rich man found misery in the life to come simply because he was rich in this life; likewise, we should not assume that Lazarus found comfort in the life to come simply because he was poor. Rather, Lazarus found comfort because – in the midst of his poverty - he was close to God; the rich man found misery because – in the midst of his riches – he was apathetic to the needs of the poor and, therefore, far from God.

The Psalmist today sings, “The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the just” (Psalm 146:9). Lazarus received his comfort because he had been bowed down; the rich man received his torments because he was not just.

It must be remembered that it was the dogs that came to clean Lazarus’ sores; the dogs treated him as an equal and one of their own, while the rich man dined sumptuously and lifted not a finger to care for the poor man dying at his door.

Commenting on this passage, Saint Jerome said to the rich man:

Most wretched of men, you see a member of your own body lying there outside at your gate, and you have no compassion? If the laws of God mean nothing to you, at least take pity on your own situation and be in fear, for perhaps you might become like him. Give what you waste to your own member. I am not telling you to throw away your wealth. What you throw out, the crumbs from your table, offer as alms (Saint Jerome, On Lazarus and Dives in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Thomas C. Oden, et al (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2003), 260-261).
How easy it would have been for the rich man to help Lazarus and it would have cost him nothing, save a small amount of time; yet, he offered him no assistance. Of him, Cyril of Alexandria said, “The rich man was crueler than the dogs, because he felt no sympathy or compassion for him but was completely unmerciful” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke III in ibid., 261).

Here, then, we come to the reason for the rich man’s torment: he showed no mercy to Lazarus. In another place, the Lord Jesus declared, “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matthew 7:2). In this life the rich man showed no mercy and so in the life to come he received none.

Last Sunday we considered the authentic common good of society and our obligation to promote and safeguard it, given the circumstances of our lives. We saw that the common good always involves three things: first, respect for the individual person; second, the well-being and development of society; and, third, peace, by which is meant security and stability. It is easy to see that in his lack of compassion toward Lazarus, the rich man violated the common good on all three levels and for this reason he suffered eternal torment.

The Lord Jesus Christ has told us the way to share the comfort Lazarus received, and still more besides: it is the way of the love of God and of neighbor.

At the Last Judgment he will separate humanity into two groups, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. To those on his right, who provided for the needs of the poor, he will say, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). But to those on his left, who did not provide for the needs of the poor, he will say, “‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:45-46).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have reminded us that “in the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Bishops of the United States (2007), 13). We must use our political voice under the guidance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for our salvation may well depend on it. Will we use our voices for good, for the aid of those most vulnerable among us, or will we use our voices for evil, for selfishness and greed?

The rich man cared only for himself and for his riches and found great torment after his death. Let us learn from his example and show compassion toward the weak and poor among us. Let us use our voices for good, that we might help to build a just and civil society and that the Lord may raise us up and seat us at his table in his heavenly kingdom.

If we participate in the political realm united in all things to the faith of Jesus Christ, we will heed well the admonition of the Apostle: “keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:14). Amen.

From this weekend's bulletin

Dear brothers and sisters,

May the Lord give you peace!

As you know, Bishop Paprocki gathered with the priests of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois this past week for our annual Convocation. It was a time to reflect on ways we can renew our preaching and a time for us to visit and reconnect with each other.

In the midst of the Convocation I was called to Springfield to visit a parishioner in the hospital. I mentioned to a few priests the situation and excused myself from the sessions and readily made the drive to for this pastoral visit.

As I drove the short trip from Decatur to Springfield it occurred to me that I was about the only priest in the Diocese not gathered in Decatur (some of our retired and elderly priests did not attend the Convocation, for reasons of health). It was a strange and discomforting thought; while it is necessary for priests to gather together for prayer, study and fellowship from time to time, my thoughts that morning seemed somewhat ominous of the future that may be ours: we may well be facing a not too distant future where priests are spread thin, both geographically and in terms of the time they will have for pastoral work, which brings me to the purpose of these words.

On Saturday, October 16th, the Office for Vocations is sponsoring a “Thinking of Priesthood Day” to help young men (juniors in high school or older) consider whether or not the Lord is calling them to priestly service. As of this Tuesday evening, 35 invitations have been sent to young men across the Diocese who have either voiced interest in the priesthood themselves or who have been recommend by others; I submitted three of the names and will soon send in another.

At a recent meeting of the Region 12 Planning Committee, one of the members said, “The Church needs to do more about vocations.” I responded quickly and passionately with the same questions I recently posed to you in one of my homilies: When was the last time you fervently begged the Lord for more priests? When was the last time you actively encouraged a young man to think about the priesthood? How many future priests have been contracepted, aborted or actively discouraged over the past forty years? Priests do not simply fall out of heaven; they arise from within families of faith.

The Church is doing what she can to encourage young men to answer the Lord’s call with generosity and courage; we know with certainty that the Lord has not stopped calling men to his service. It is, rather, that those who are being called are not answering his call, often times because of a perceived lack of support from their families and friends. What have you done for vocations lately? The Knights of Columbus are right: Vocations are everybody’s business.

I answered the call of the Lord because of the support of my fellow parishioners who repeatedly encouraged me to think about the priesthood; without their encouragement, I do not think I would have seriously considered the priesthood. Because of their support, I have found the Lord’s will for my life.

Won’t you do the same for another young man? If you know a young man whom the Lord might be calling to his service, encourage him to consider the priesthood. Give me his name and address and I will get him an invitation to the Thinking of Priesthood Day. The Lord wants to give us the priests we need, but we must cooperate with the grace he gives. May the Lord raise up from within our pastoral unit many priests who will dedicate their lives to him with joy and zeal.

25 September 2010

Follow the leader

What follows are pictures from yesterday afternoon's prayerful and peaceful march to Planned Parenthood in Springfield:

Walking with a marathon tends to make the front of the march go a bit faster than the rest of the group. A few blocks into the march, one of the organizers joked with Bishop Paprocki, trying to get him to slow the pace a bit. He responded, "Only twenty-five and a half miles to go." We did try to slow the pace, but it's not an easy thing to do.

A peaceful march

Yesterday afternoon Bishop Thomas John Paprocki hosted an ecumenical prayer service for life with Dr. Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., before leading a peaceful march to Planned Parenthood in the capitol city.

What was to be a cool and rainy afternoon turned into a beautiful warm and sunny one.

I am in the above picture on the far left. Another priest referred to me as "Father Security Guard."

The Catherdal of the Immaculate Conception was rather full - though, sadly, not packed - for the prayer service with members of various Christian traditions, from all ages and ethnic backgrounds. To see such a varied congregation was a clear witness to the Gospel of Life.

Molly Beck of the State Journal-Register wrote the following story in today's issue (with my emphases and comments):

Singing “We Shall Overcome,” hundreds of people marched through the streets of downtown Springfield Friday afternoon led by an heir to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — not for race relations, but to protest what the walkers said they see as the U.S.’s foremost civil rights infringement: abortion.

Alveda King, a niece of the slain civil rights leader and an anti-abortion activist, spent her second day in Springfield with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. They asked about 400 people [that seems about right] in attendance to help efforts to curtail abortions in the United States.

“Will you be able to say that you defended life?” King asked during a prayer service Paprocki held at the cathedral. “Let our dream that every man, every woman, every girl … that we do all we can.”

Paprocki’s ecumenical service promoted a peaceful march to Planned Parenthood’s health clinic at 1000 E. Washington St. Marchers included groups from area parochial schools.

Charlie Brown, 17, one of four Sacred Heart-Griffin students asked to participate in the service, read a quote from Martin Luther King asking for those in attendance to be concerned with “the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life.”

Brown, who is black, said the significance of the day’s event for him was the promotion of anti-abortion efforts, not Alveda King’s appearance [a wise young man].

King, who lives in Atlanta, Ga., spoke about her uncle’s, father’s and grandfather’s work as pastors and said she knew they would support her years of work to end abortion.

On Thursday, Planned Parenthood released a statement saying King is using her uncle’s name to “further her position in the anti-abortion movement to the detriment of the health and well-being of women.”

The walkers headed out on foot about 2 p.m., going east on Lawrence Avenue and Cook Street, north on 11th Street and then west on Washington Street. The group, some holding signs, settled in front of the clinic [in part of the road and in a parking lot acros the street from Planned Parenthood] with a black pickup truck as home base.

Paprocki and King addressed the crowd again, asking Planned Parenthood to “bear witness to the truth” and offer women who seek their services the option of seeing an ultrasound.

“You say you want to give (patients) a clear choice — let them see their babies,” Paprocki said.

Pam Sutherland, vice president for public policy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, responded that the organization does just that.

“It just shows how clueless the bishop is and Alveda King is about medical services that we provide,” she said. “Any patient who is considering abortion gets an ultrasound, and we ask if they would like to see it.

“I ask (Paprocki) to work with us to help reduce the need for abortion by making sure women have access to comprehensive birth control,” she said.

Sutherland said she also was concerned that Springfield police hadn’t notified clinic officials in advance of the rally [Why should they notify them of a peaceful protest? The event was publicized for at least a month], which blocked traffic to the Planned Parenthood building [traffic was not blocked; it was diverted from one direction, while access from the other direction was not blocked. Access to the parking lot of Planned Parenthood was easily made, and two cars left the sidewalk in front of the building while we were there].

“Ninety percent of our services are general health-care services, so I find it interesting that (protesters) would want to protest and block access to our patients,” Sutherland said. “They blocked women from getting good health care services today.”

Police deputy chief of criminal investigations Cliff Buscher said police are not obligated to notify businesses of protest marches, but to provide traffic control.
In the next few days a video of the march will be published on the Diocesan web site, which I will link here. I'll also post a few pictures I took later today or tomorrow.

Photo source: Justin L. Fowler/State Journal-Register

20 September 2010

"Come away by yourselves..."

So said the Lord Jesus to his Apostles. These words have continued to echo down through the centuries as Bishops call their presbyterates together.

Today through Thursday, the priests of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will gather with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki for their annual Convocation, our first gathering with our new Bishop.

The theme for our gathering this year is "Renewing Sunday Preaching." At the end of the week, we will spend some time discussing the forthcoming revised Roman Missal.

Priests are often very much like everyone else. We look forward to events such as things mostly for the fellowship, for the time to be able to visit with each other without feeling rushed. The presentations are often helpful, but they sometimes seem to get in their way of our visits.

Please keep our gathering in your prayers, both that our fraternity will be strengthened and that our common ministry of preaching will be more fruitful.

Just because I like it

Photo source: REUTERS/Matt Cardy/Pool

19 September 2010

Pope: Church is inclusive, but not at expense of truth

On Friday the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI visited the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, marking the first time a Bishop of Rome visited Lambeth Palace.

The text of his address follows, with my emphases:

Your Grace,

It is a pleasure for me to be able to return the courtesy of the visits you have made to me in Rome by a fraternal visit to you here in your official residence. I thank you for your invitation and for the hospitality that you have so generously provided. I greet too the Anglican Bishops gathered here from different parts of the United Kingdom, my brother Bishops from the Catholic Dioceses of England, Wales and Scotland, and the ecumenical advisers who are present.

You have spoken, Your Grace, of the historic meeting that took place, almost thirty years ago, between two of our predecessors – Pope John Paul the Second and Archbishop Robert Runcie – in Canterbury Cathedral. There, in the very place where Saint Thomas of Canterbury bore witness to Christ by the shedding of his blood, they prayed together for the gift of unity among the followers of Christ. We continue today to pray for that gift, knowing that the unity Christ willed for his disciples will only come about in answer to prayer, through the action of the Holy Spirit, who ceaselessly renews the Church and guides her into the fullness of truth.

It is not my intention today to speak of the difficulties that the ecumenical path has encountered and continues to encounter. Those difficulties are well known to everyone here. Rather, I wish to join you in giving thanks for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue during the forty years that have elapsed since the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission began its work. Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth.

The context in which dialogue takes place between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church has evolved in dramatic ways since the private meeting between Pope John XXIII and Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher in 1960. On the one hand, the surrounding culture is growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment. On the other hand, the increasingly multicultural dimension of society, particularly marked in this country, brings with it the opportunity to encounter other religions. For us Christians this opens up the possibility of exploring, together with members of other religious traditions, ways of bearing witness to the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness, leading to the practice of virtue in our personal and social lives. Ecumenical cooperation in this task remains essential, and will surely bear fruit in promoting peace and harmony in a world that so often seems at risk of fragmentation.

At the same time, we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ, and to explore together a deeper understanding of the means he has placed at our disposal for attaining that salvation. God “wants all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), and that truth is nothing other than Jesus Christ, eternal Son of the Father, who has reconciled all things in himself by the power of his Cross. In fidelity to the Lord’s will, as expressed in that passage from Saint Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we recognize that the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth. Herein lies the dilemma facing all who are genuinely committed to the ecumenical journey.

In the figure of John Henry Newman, who is to be beatified on Sunday, we celebrate a churchman whose ecclesial vision was nurtured by his Anglican background and matured during his many years of ordained ministry in the Church of England. He can teach us the virtues that ecumenism demands: on the one hand, he was moved to follow his conscience, even at great personal cost; and on the other hand, the warmth of his continued friendship with his former colleagues, led him to explore with them, in a truly eirenical spirit, the questions on which they differed, driven by a deep longing for unity in faith. Your Grace, in that same spirit of friendship, let us renew our determination to pursue the goal of unity in faith, hope, and love, in accordance with the will of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

With these sentiments, I take my leave of you. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor 13:13).
Photo source: AP/Gregorio Borgia

The dialogue of life and the dialogue of action

On Friday the Holy Father Benedict XVI addressed a group of representatives from other religions. The text of his address follows, with my emphases:

Distinguished guests, dear friends,

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet you, the representatives of the various religious communities in Great Britain. I greet both the ministers of religion present and those of you who are active in politics, business and industry. I am grateful to Dr Azzam and to Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks for the greetings which they have expressed on your behalf. As I salute you, let me also wish the Jewish community in Britain and throughout the world a happy and holy celebration of Yom Kippur.

I would like to begin my remarks by expressing the Catholic Church’s appreciation for the important witness that all of you bear as spiritual men and women living at a time when religious convictions are not always understood or appreciated. The presence of committed believers in various fields of social and economic life speaks eloquently of the fact that the spiritual dimension of our lives is fundamental to our identity as human beings, that man, in other words, does not live by bread alone (cf. Deut 8:3). As followers of different religious traditions working together for the good of the community at large, we attach great importance to this “side by side” dimension of our cooperation, which complements the “face to face” aspect of our continuing dialogue.

On the spiritual level, all of us, in our different ways, are personally engaged in a journey that grants an answer to the most important question of all – the question concerning the ultimate meaning of our human existence. The quest for the sacred is the search for the one thing necessary, which alone satisfies the longings of the human heart. In the fifth century, Saint Augustine described that search in these terms: “Lord, you have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions, Book I, 1). As we embark on this adventure we come to realize more and more that the initiative lies not with us, but with the Lord: it is not so much we who are seeking him, but rather he who is seeking us, indeed it was he who placed that longing for him deep within our hearts.

Your presence and witness in the world points towards the fundamental importance for human life of this spiritual quest in which we are engaged. Within their own spheres of competence, the human and natural sciences provide us with an invaluable understanding of aspects of our existence and they deepen our grasp of the workings of the physical universe, which can then be harnessed in order to bring great benefit to the human family. Yet these disciplines do not and cannot answer the fundamental question, because they operate on another level altogether. They cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

The quest for the sacred does not devalue other fields of human enquiry. On the contrary, it places them in a context which magnifies their importance, as ways of responsibly exercising our stewardship over creation. In the Bible, we read that, after the work of creation was completed, God blessed our first parents and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). He entrusted us with the task of exploring and harnessing the mysteries of nature in order to serve a higher good. What is that higher good? In the Christian faith, it is expressed as love for God and love for our neighbour. And so we engage with the world wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, but always with a view to serving that higher good, lest we disfigure the beauty of creation by exploiting it for selfish purposes.

So it is that genuine religious belief points us beyond present utility towards the transcendent. It reminds us of the possibility and the imperative of moral conversion, of the duty to live peaceably with our neighbour, of the importance of living a life of integrity. Properly understood, it brings enlightenment, it purifies our hearts and it inspires noble and generous action, to the benefit of the entire human family. It motivates us to cultivate the practice of virtue and to reach out towards one another in love, with the greatest respect for religious traditions different from our own.

Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has placed special emphasis on the importance of dialogue and cooperation with the followers of other religions. In order to be fruitful, this requires reciprocity on the part of all partners in dialogue and the followers of other religions. I am thinking in particular of situations in some parts of the world, where cooperation and dialogue between religions calls for mutual respect, the freedom to practise one’s religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one’s conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another. Once such a respect and openness has been established, peoples of all religions will work together effectively for peace and mutual understanding, and so give a convincing witness before the world.

This kind of dialogue needs to take place on a number of different levels, and should not be limited to formal discussions. The dialogue of life involves simply living alongside one another and learning from one another in such a way as to grow in mutual knowledge and respect. The dialogue of action brings us together in concrete forms of collaboration, as we apply our religious insights to the task of promoting integral human development, working for peace, justice and the stewardship of creation. Such a dialogue may include exploring together how to defend human life at every stage and how to ensure the non-exclusion of the religious dimension of individuals and communities in the life of society. Then at the level of formal conversations, there is a need not only for theological exchange, but also sharing our spiritual riches, speaking of our experience of prayer and contemplation, and expressing to one another the joy of our encounter with divine love. In this context I am pleased to note the many positive initiatives undertaken in this country to promote such dialogue at a variety of levels. As the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales noted in their recent document Meeting God in Friend and Stranger, the effort to reach out in friendship to followers of other religions is becoming a familiar part of the mission of the local Church (n. 228), a characteristic feature of the religious landscape in this country.

My dear friends, as I conclude my remarks, let me assure you that the Catholic Church follows the path of engagement and dialogue out of a genuine sense of respect for you and your beliefs. Catholics, both in Britain and throughout the world, will continue to work to build bridges of friendship to other religions, to heal past wrongs and to foster trust between individuals and communities. Let me reiterate my thanks for your welcome and my gratitude for this opportunity to offer you my encouragement for your dialogue with your Christian sisters and brothers. Upon all of you I invoke abundant divine blessings! Thank you very much.

18 September 2010

Pope speaks to young people

Yesterday, after speaking to a group of teachers at the Chapel of St. Mary's University College, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of students. The text of his address follows, with my emphases:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear young friends,

First of all, I want to say how glad I am to be here with you today. I greet you most warmly, those who have come to Saint Mary’s University from Catholic schools and colleges across the United Kingdom, and all who are watching on television and via the internet. I thank Bishop McMahon for his gracious welcome, I thank the choir and the band for the lovely music which began our celebration, and I thank Miss Bellot and Elaine for her kind words on behalf of all the young people present. In view of London’s forthcoming Olympic Games, it has been a pleasure to inaugurate this Sports Foundation, named in honour of Pope John Paul II, and I pray that all who come here will give glory to God through their sporting activities, as well as bringing enjoyment to themselves and to others.

It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.

Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.

In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study, you begin to specialize with a view to what you are going to do later on in life. That is right and proper. But always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray.

A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints. I know that there are many non-Catholics studying in the Catholic schools in Great Britain, and I wish to include all of you in my words today. I pray that you too will feel encouraged to practise virtue and to grow in knowledge and friendship with God alongside your Catholic classmates. You are a reminder to them of the bigger picture that exists outside the school, and indeed, it is only right that respect and friendship for members of other religious traditions should be among the virtues learned in a Catholic school. I hope too that you will want to share with everyone you meet the values and insights you have learned through the Christian education you have received.

Dear friends, I thank you for your attention, I promise to pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me. I hope to see many of you next August, at the World Youth Day in Madrid. In the meantime, may God bless you all!

Pope speaks to teachers

Yesterday the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI met with teachers at the Chapel of St. Mary's University College. He addressed them with the following words, with my emphases:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by religious men and women in this land to the noble task of education. I thank the young people for their fine singing, and I thank Sister Teresa for her words. To her and to all the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to teaching the young, I want to express sentiments of deep appreciation. You form new generations not only in knowledge of the faith, but in every aspect of what it means to live as mature and responsible citizens in today’s world.

As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for “both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts” (Wis 7:16).

This transcendent dimension of study and teaching was clearly grasped by the monks who contributed so much to the evangelization of these islands. I am thinking of the Benedictines who accompanied Saint Augustine on his mission to England, of the disciples of Saint Columba who spread the faith across Scotland and Northern England, of Saint David and his companions in Wales. Since the search for God, which lies at the heart of the monastic vocation, requires active engagement with the means by which he makes himself known – his creation and his revealed word – it was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school (cf. Address to representatives from the world of culture at the “Collège des Bernardins” in Paris, 12 September 2008). It was the monks’ dedication to learning as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilization.

Looking around me today, I see many apostolic religious whose charism includes the education of the young. This gives me an opportunity to give thanks to God for the life and work of the Venerable Mary Ward, a native of this land whose pioneering vision of apostolic religious life for women has borne so much fruit. I myself as a young boy was taught by the “English Ladies” and I owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Many of you belong to teaching orders that have carried the light of the Gospel to far-off lands as part of the Church’s great missionary work, and for this too I give thanks and praise to God. Often you laid the foundations of educational provision long before the State assumed a responsibility for this vital service to the individual and to society. As the relative roles of Church and State in the field of education continue to evolve, never forget that religious have a unique contribution to offer to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the supreme Teacher.

Indeed, the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine. It means that the life of faith needs to be the driving force behind every activity in the school, so that the Church’s mission may be served effectively, and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (Spe Salvi, 28).

Before I conclude, I wish to add a particular word of appreciation for those whose task it is to ensure that our schools provide a safe environment for children and young people. Our responsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less. Indeed, the life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust. I pray that this may continue to be a hallmark of the Catholic schools in this country.

With these sentiments, dear Brothers and Sisters, I invite you now to stand and pray.
That's always a good way to end an address.

Homily - 19 September 2010

The Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

It will not now be long before we find ourselves once again in the voting booths to elect those who will represent us in shaping and determining the future of our nation and, to some extent, of the world.

Each of us who may enter a polling station has a solemn duty to use our vote wisely and well, looking to the common good and the dignity of all human life. Indeed, Holy Mother Church reminds us that “political rights are meant to be exercised for the common good of the nation and the human community (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2237).

We hear this phrase, “the common good,” used frequently and from many quarters, but we too often do not give serious consideration to what it really means. Put simply, the common good concerns “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily (Ibid., 1906).”

The true common good is comprised of three necessary and essential elements: first, a respect for the person; second, the social well-being and development of society; and, third, peace, by which is meant stability and security (cf. Ibid., 1909). If one of these is not present, the common good will not be fostered.

The political authority has the grave obligation to promote and safeguard the authentic common good. It is no small task and one in which you and I play an important role; it is an obligation and duty incumbent upon us by virtue both of our human dignity and our status as members of the Body of Christ (cf. Ibid., 1913).

Our participation in promoting the common good begins first of all in those spheres of our daily lives: “by the care taken for the education of the family, by conscientious work, and so forth (Ibid., 1914).” Our promotion of the common good continues in our active participation in the political sphere.

Our political participation beings with prayer. Saint Paul instructs us thus: “First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity” (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Indeed, we must pray daily for those who serve in public office, that through an ongoing conversion of their hearts and minds the true common good will be served above personal interests and pet projects. It is only when the common good is met and served that we can lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.

At the same time, we must pray, too, for an ongoing conversion in our own minds and hearts that we, also, will always look to the common good over our own selfish desires. Too many will enter the voting booth thinking only of themselves and of their money and to these the words of the Lord Jesus ring true: “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

There are too many today who claim to be good Catholics who look to their monetary gain more than they do the rights and dignity of the unborn or of the elderly. They enter the voting booth thinking mainly of their pockets. They are those who say, “We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell” (Amos 8:6). These are not unlike those condemned by the prophet Amos through whom the Lord has sworn, “Never will I forget a thing they have done” (Amos 8:7)!

Any position or view – whether economic, political or otherwise – “that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of many conflicts which disturb the social order (Ibid., 2424).” Over the past few years we have seen this fact displayed in terms all too clear.

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is currently in the United Kingdom for the beatification of John Henry Newman. Thursday he addressed the Scottish people in the following words which touch upon political participation. He said,

I encourage the Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers of Scotland never to lose sight of their calling to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, engaging contemporary Scottish culture at every level.

The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 16 September 2010).
His words are well-suited for us, as well; let each of us heed them by letting our faith in Jesus Christ shape every aspect of our lives; let us keep nothing from him.

Faith cannot be separated from our public lives. Faith in Christ Jesus is not simply a private affair, but a way of life following after the Crucified and Risen Lord wherever he leads. Faith in the One who first loved us requires a total and complete dedication to him. As he himself has said, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:). There is only one whom we are to serve and he calls us to a service of love that imitates his own.

Concluding his remarks Thursday, the Holy Father offered this simple and profound reminder:

There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God (Ibid.).
In this way, we can cooperate with the grace of God to bring about a society devoted to the common good where all people of good will can lead a quiet and tranquil life.

As we in the United States of America observe today this Catechetical Sunday, it is a reminder to all those who seek to hand on the faith of Jesus Christ to others, whether parents, teachers, catechists, or others, that we seek to follow one Lord faithfully. You share in the ministry of the Church; be certain that by your words and example the faith of Jesus Christ shines brightly before your children and those entrusted to your teaching. Let the witness of your lives show others the way to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith and in the service of society.

Today the Church wishes to bestow upon you a special blessing to strengthen you with the Lord’s grace in your efforts plant and water the seeds of the faith planted in the souls of others.

16 September 2010

Pope: I have come as a herald of that peace

Today the Holy Father Benedict XVI celebrated the Holy Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland.

The text of the homily he preached at the Mass follows, with my emphases:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“The Kingdom of God is very near to you!” (Lk 10:9). With these words of the Gospel we have just heard, I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord. Truly the Lord’s Kingdom is already in our midst! At this Eucharistic celebration in which the Church in Scotland gathers around the altar in union with the Successor of Peter, let us reaffirm our faith in Christ’s word and our hope – a hope which never disappoints – in his promises! I warmly greet Cardinal O’Brien and the Scottish Bishops; I thank in particular Archbishop Conti for his kind words of welcome on your behalf; and I express my deep gratitude for the work that the British and Scottish Governments and the Glasgow city fathers have done to make this occasion possible.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Christ continues to send his disciples into the world in order to proclaim the coming of his Kingdom and to bring his peace into the world, beginning house by house, family by family, town by town. I have come as a herald of that peace to you, the spiritual children of Saint Andrew and to confirm you in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32). It is with some emotion that I address you, not far from the spot where my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass nearly thirty years ago with you and was welcomed by the largest crowd ever gathered in Scottish history.

Much has happened in Scotland and in the Church in this country since that historic visit. I note with great satisfaction how Pope John Paul’s call to you to walk hand in hand with your fellow Christians has led to greater trust and friendship with the members of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and others. Let me encourage you to continue to pray and work with them in building a brighter future for Scotland based upon our common Christian heritage. In today’s first reading we heard Saint Paul appeal to the Romans to acknowledge that, as members of Christ’s body, we belong to each other (cf. Rom 12:5) and to live in respect and mutual love. In that spirit I greet the ecumenical representatives who honour us by their presence. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Reformation Parliament, but also the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, which is widely acknowledged to mark the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. Let us give thanks to God for the promise which ecumenical understanding and cooperation represents for a united witness to the saving truth of God’s word in today’s rapidly changing society.

Among the differing gifts which Saint Paul lists for the building up of the Church is that of teaching (cf. Rom 12:7). The preaching of the Gospel has always been accompanied by concern for the word: the inspired word of God and the culture in which that word takes root and flourishes. Here in Scotland, I think of the three medieval universities founded here by the popes, including that of Saint Andrews which is beginning to mark the 600th anniversary of its foundation. In the last 30 years and with the assistance of civil authorities, Scottish Catholic schools have taken up the challenge of providing an integral education to greater numbers of students, and this has helped young people not only along the path of spiritual and human growth, but also in entering the professions and public life. This is a sign of great hope for the Church, and I encourage the Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers of Scotland never to lose sight of their calling to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, engaging contemporary Scottish culture at every level.

The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.

Saint Ninian, whose feast we celebrate today, was himself unafraid to be a lone voice. In the footsteps of the disciples whom our Lord sent forth before him, Ninian was one of the very first Catholic missionaries to bring his fellow Britons the good news of Jesus Christ. His mission church in Galloway became a centre for the first evangelization of this country. That work was later taken up by Saint Mungo, Glasgow’s own patron, and by other saints, the greatest of whom must include Saint Columba and Saint Margaret. Inspired by them, many men and women have laboured over many centuries to hand down the faith to you. Strive to be worthy of this great tradition! Let the exhortation of Saint Paul in the first reading be your constant inspiration: “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer” (cf. Rom 12:11-12).

I would now like to address a special word to the bishops of Scotland. Dear brothers, let me encourage you in your pastoral leadership of the Catholics of Scotland. As you know, one of your first pastoral duties is to your priests (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7) and to their sanctification. As they are alter Christus to the Catholic community, so you are to them. Live to the full the charity that flows from Christ, in your brotherly ministry towards your priests, collaborating with them all, and in particular with those who have little contact with their fellow priests. Pray with them for vocations, that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers to his harvest (cf. Lk 10:2). Just as the Eucharist makes the Church, so the priesthood is central to the life of the Church. Engage yourselves personally in forming your priests as a body of men who inspire others to dedicate themselves completely to the service of Almighty God. Have a care also for your deacons, whose ministry of service is associated in a particular way with that of the order of bishops. Be a father and a guide in holiness for them, encouraging them to grow in knowledge and wisdom in carrying out the mission of herald to which they have been called.

Dear priests of Scotland, you are called to holiness and to serve God’s people by modelling your lives on the mystery of the Lord’s cross. Preach the Gospel with a pure heart and a clear conscience. Dedicate yourselves to God alone and you will become shining examples to young men of a holy, simple and joyful life: they, in their turn, will surely wish to join you in your single-minded service of God’s people. May the example of Saint John Ogilvie, dedicated, selfless and brave, inspire all of you. Similarly, let me encourage you, the monks, nuns and religious of Scotland to be a light on a hilltop, living an authentic Christian life of prayer and action that witnesses in a luminous way to the power of the Gospel.

Finally, I would like to say a word to you, my dear young Catholics of Scotland. I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and of yourselves. There are many temptations placed before you every day - drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol - which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive. There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!

Dear friends, I express once more my joy at celebrating this Mass with you. I am happy to assure you of my prayers in the ancient language of your country: Sìth agus beannachd Dhe dhuibh uile; Dia bhi timcheall oirbh; agus gum beannaicheadh Dia Alba. God’s peace and blessing to you all; God surround you; and may God bless the people of Scotland!
More to come.

AP Photo/Scott Heppell

A happy Pontiff

Photo source: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

His Holiness and Her Majesty

The Holy Father Benedict XVI today visited Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland.

His Holiness addressed Her Majesty in the following words (with my emphases and comments):

Your Majesty,

Thank you for your gracious invitation to make an official visit to the United Kingdom and for your warm words of greeting on behalf of the British people. In thanking Your Majesty, allow me to extend my own greetings to all the people of the United Kingdom and to hold out a hand of friendship to each one.

It is a great pleasure for me to start my journey by saluting the members of the Royal Family, thanking in particular His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh for his kind welcome to me at Edinburgh Airport. I express my gratitude to Your Majesty’s present and previous Governments and to all those who worked with them to make this occasion possible, including Lord Patten and former Secretary of State Murphy. I would also like to acknowledge with deep appreciation the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, which has contributed greatly to strengthening the friendly relations existing between the Holy See and the United Kingdom.

As I begin my visit to the United Kingdom in Scotland’s historic capital city, I greet in a special way First Minister Salmond and the representatives of the Scottish Parliament. Just like the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, may the Scottish Parliament grow to be an expression of the fine traditions and distinct culture of the Scots and strive to serve their best interests in a spirit of solidarity and concern for the common good.

The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor [of whom I have a relic] and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.

We find many examples of this force for good throughout Britain’s long history. Even in comparatively recent times, due to figures like William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, Britain intervened directly to stop the international slave trade. Inspired by faith, women like Florence Nightingale served the poor and the sick and set new standards in healthcare that were subsequently copied everywhere. John Henry Newman, whose beatification I will celebrate shortly, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women. These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands.

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

Sixty-five years ago, Britain played an essential role in forging the post-war international consensus which favoured the establishment of the United Nations and ushered in a hitherto unknown period of peace and prosperity in Europe. In more recent years, the international community has followed closely events in Northern Ireland which have led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution of powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Your Majesty’s Government and the Government of Ireland, together with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland, have helped give birth to a peaceful resolution of the conflict there. I encourage everyone involved to continue to walk courageously together on the path marked out for them towards a just and lasting peace.

Looking abroad, the United Kingdom remains a key figure politically and economically on the international stage. Your Government and people are the shapers of ideas that still have an impact far beyond the British Isles. This places upon them a particular duty to act wisely for the common good. Similarly, because their opinions reach such a wide audience, the British media have a graver responsibility than most and a greater opportunity to promote the peace of nations, the integral development of peoples and the spread of authentic human rights. May all Britons continue to live by the values of honesty, respect and fair-mindedness that have won them the esteem and admiration of many.

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world.

May God bless Your Majesty and all the people of your realm. Thank you.
More to come.

Photo source: REUTERS/Dave ThompsonPool

On the Sceptered Isles

The Holy Father Benedict XVI is curently in the United Kingdom for his pastoral visit to beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Please keep His Holiness in your prayers.

Photo source: REUTERS/Andrew Milligan/Pool

15 September 2010

Benedict on Clare

Pope Benedict XVI used his Wednesday General Audience to reflect on the life and influence of Saint Clare of Assisi. The text of his address follows, via Zenit, with my emphases:

Dear brothers and sisters,

One of the most beloved saints is without a doubt St. Clare of Assisi, who lived in the 13th century and was a contemporary of St. Francis. Her testimony shows us how the whole Church is indebted to courageous women rich in faith like her, capable of giving decisive impetus to the renewal of the Church.

Then who was Clare of Assisi? To respond to this question we have reliable sources: Not only the ancient biographies, such as that of Thomas of Celano, but also the acts from the canonization process promoted by the Pope only a few months after Clare's death, which contain the testimonies of those who lived with her for a long time.

Born in 1193, Clare belonged to a wealthy aristocratic family. She gave up nobility and wealth to live poorly and humbly, adopting the way of life proposed by St. Francis of Assisi. Although her family was planning her marriage to an important personality -- as was the practice in that time -- with a bold gesture inspired by her profound desire to follow Christ and her admiration for Francis, Clare left her family home when she was 18 and, accompanied by a friend, Bona di Guelfuccio, she secretly met the Friars Minor in the small church of the Portiuncula. It was the afternoon of Palm Sunday of 1211.

Amid general shock, a highly symbolic gesture took place: While his companions held lighted torches in their hands, Francis cut her hair and Clare was clothed in a coarse penitential habit. From that moment she became the virgin bride of Christ, humble and poor, and she consecrated herself totally to him. Over the course of history innumerable women like Clare and her companions have been fascinated by Christ who, in the beauty of his Divine Person, fills their hearts. And the entire Church, through the mystic nuptial vocation of consecrated virgins, shows what she will always be: the beautiful and pure Bride of Christ.

In one of the four letters that Clare sent to St. Agnes of Prague, the daughter of the king of Bohemia who wished to follow in her footsteps, she speaks of Christ, her beloved Spouse, with nuptial expressions, which might be surprising, but which are moving: "Loving him, you are chaste, touching him, you will be more pure, letting yourself be possessed by him you are virgin. His power is stronger, his generosity loftier, his appearance more beautiful, his love gentler and all grace finer. Now you are enfolded in his arms, he who has adorned your breast with precious stones ... and has crowned you with a crown of gold marked with the sign of sanctity" (First letter: FF, 2862).

Above all at the beginning of her religious experience, Clare had in Francis of Assisi not only a teacher whose instruction she would follow, but also a fraternal friend. The friendship between these two saints is a very beautiful and important element. In fact, when two pure souls meet, inflamed by the same love of God, they draw from their mutual friendship a very strong stimulus to undertake the way of perfection. Friendship is one of the noble and lofty human sentiments that divine grace purifies and transfigures. Like St. Francis and St. Clare, other saints have also experienced a profound friendship on the same path toward Christian perfection, such as St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. And it is precisely St. Francis de Sales who writes: "It is lovely to be able to love on earth as one loves in heaven, and to learn to love one another in this world as we will eternally in the next. I am not speaking here of the simple love of charity, because we must have this for all people; I am speaking of spiritual friendship, in the ambit of which two, three or more persons exchange devotion, spiritual affections, and truly become one spirit" (Introduction to the Devout Life, III, 19).

After spending a period of some months in other monastic communities, resisting the pressures of her relatives who in the beginning did not approve of her choice, Clare established herself with her first companions in the church of San Damiano, where the Friars Minor had prepared a small convent for them. She lived in that monastery for more than 40 years, until her death, which occurred in 1253. A firsthand description has come down to us of how these women lived in those years at the beginning of the Franciscan movement. It is a report full of admiration from a Flemish bishop, James of Vitry, on a visit to Italy, who states that he met a great number of men and women, of all social classes, who "leaving everything for Christ, fled from the world. They are called Friars Minor and Sisters Minor and are held in great regard by the Lord Pope and by the cardinals. ... The women ... dwell together in various hospices not far from cities. They do not receive anything, but live from the work of their hands. And they are pained and profoundly disturbed because they are honored more than they would like, by clerics and laity" (Letter of October 1216: FF, 2205.2007).

James of Vitry keenly understood a characteristic trait of Franciscan spirituality about which Clare was very sensitive: radical poverty associated with total trust in Divine Providence. Because of this, she acted with great determination, obtaining from Pope Gregory IX or, probably already from Pope Innocent III, the so-called Privilegium Paupertatis (cf. FF, 3279). Based on this, Clare and her companions of San Damiano could not own any material property. It was truly an extraordinary exception in regard to existing canon law, and the ecclesiastical authorities of that time granted it, appreciating the fruits of evangelical sanctity that they recognized in the way that Clare and her sisters lived. This also shows that in the Medieval centuries, the role of women was not secondary but rather was considerable. In this regard, it is appropriate to recall that Clare was the first woman in the history of the Church who composed a written rule, subject to the Pope's approval, so that the charism of Francis of Assisi would be preserved in all the feminine communities that were being established already in great numbers in her time, and that wished to be inspired in Francis' and Clare's example.

In the convent of San Damiano, Clare practiced heroically the virtues that should distinguish every Christian: humility, a spirit of piety and penance, charity. Even though she was the superior, she wished to serve the sick sisters herself, subjecting herself also to very humble tasks: Charity, in fact, overcomes all resistance and one who loves makes every sacrifice with joy. Her faith in the Real Presence in the Eucharist was so great that on two occasions, prodigious events were witnessed. With the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament alone, she succeeded in repelling the Saracen mercenary soldiers who were about to attack the convent of San Damiano and devastate Assisi.

These episodes, like other miracles about which records were kept, drove Pope Alexander IV to canonize her only two years after her death, in 1255, sketching a eulogy of her in the bull of canonization in which we read: "How vivid is the force of this light and how strong is the clarity of this luminous source. Truly, this light was enclosed in the retreat of the cloistered life, and outside it radiated luminous brilliance; it was recollected in a small monastery, and expanded outside throughout the vast world. It was kept inside and spread outside. Clare, in fact, hid herself, but her life was revealed to all. Clare was silent, but her fame cried out" (FF, 3284).

And this is precisely the way of things, dear friends: It is the saints who change the world for the better, they transform it in a lasting way, injecting in it energies that only love inspired by the Gospel can arouse. The saints are the great benefactors of humanity!

St. Clare's spirituality, the synthesis of her proposal of sanctity, is gathered in the fourth letter to St. Agnes of Prague. St. Clare uses the image of the mirror, which was a very widespread image in the Middle Ages, rooted in the patristics. And she invites her Prague friend to look at herself in that mirror of perfection of every virtue, which is the Lord himself. She writes: "Happy certainly is she who is granted to enjoy this sacred union, to adhere with the depth of the heart [to Christ], to the One whose beauty all the blessed multitudes of the heavens admire incessantly, whose affection impassions, whose contemplation restores, whose goodness satiates, whose gentleness fills, whose memory shines gently, from whose perfume the dead will return to life and whose glorious vision will make blessed all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. And given that he is the splendor of glory, pure whiteness of the eternal light and spotless mirror, look every day in this mirror, oh queen, bride of Jesus Christ, and scrutinize continually in him his face, so that you will thus be able to adorn yourself completely within and without ... shining in this mirror are blessed poverty, holy humility and ineffable charity" (Fourth Letter: FF, 2901-2903).

Thankful to God who has given us the saints who speak to our heart and provide us an example of Christian life to imitate, I would like to conclude with the same words of blessing that St. Clare composed for her sisters and that still today the Poor Clares, who carry out a valuable role in the Church with their prayer and their work, keep with great devotion. They are an expression from which arises all the tenderness of her spiritual maternity: "I bless you in my life and after my death, as I can and more than I can, with all the blessings with which the Father of mercies blesses and will bless in heaven and on earth his sons and daughters, and with which a spiritual father and a spiritual mother bless and will bless their spiritual sons and daughters. Amen" (FF, 2856).

For the Beatification of Augustus Tolton

Today I received a package from the Archdiocese of Chicago today biographical brochures about Father Augustus Tolton and holy cards with prayers for his canonization. The prayer reads as follows:

O God, we give you thanks for your servant and priest, Father Augustus Tolton, who labored among us in times of contradiction, times that were both beautiful and paradoxical. His ministry helped lay the foundations for a truly Catholic gathering in faith in our time. We stand in the shadow of his ministry. May his life continue to inspire us and imbue us with that confidence and hope that will forge a new evangelization for the Church we love.

Father in Heaven, Father Tolton's suffering service sheds light upon our sorrows; we see them through the prism of your Son's passion and death. If it be your Will, O God, glorify your servant, Father Tolton, by granting the favor I now request through his intercession (mention your request) so that all may know the goodness of this priest whose memory looms large in the Church he loved.

Complete what you have begun in us that we might work for the fulfillment of your kingdom. Not to us the glory, but glory to you O God, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are our God, living and reigning forever and ever. Amen.
Favors received through the intercession of Father Tolton, both spiritual and physical, are asked to be reported to The Office of the Cardinal, Archdiocese of Chicago, 835 Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611.

12 September 2010

Overheard in the sacristy

Last evening before Mass, I overheard a classic exchange between the two servers.

Both servers were seated, awaiting the time for Mass to begin. Server A brought a couple of books with him, one of them being a catechism of some sort and the other being from a Star Wars series.

He was quietly reading the Star Wars book, when Server B asked if Server A had read a different book (I wasn't quite paying attention at that moment and so missed the title). The conversation continued:

Server A: No. Do you like to read?

Server B: Yes. I know a good place to go to get books.

Server A: The library? [I just about burst out in laughter, but managed somehow to contain myself. I quite enjoy that sort of humor, and am rather good at it myself.]

Server B: Well, yes, but I know a place in Springfield.

Server A: Barnes and Noble Booksellers?

Server B: Yes, that's it.
They seem to be two servers after my own heart.

Something else happened this morning at one of my two Masses that I wanted to let you about, but I can't for the life of me remember what it might have been. Or where.

11 September 2010

Paprocki on Ground Zero, Auschwitz and the Crusades

Like so many others today and in recent days, the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki reflects in his current column in the Catholic Times, "Lex Cordis Caritas," on the events of September 11th, 2001.

His thoughts lead to him to a consideration that is well worth reading of the proposed building of an Islamic cultural center at the site of Ground Zero, Auschwitz and the Crusades (with my emphases and comments):

....It is in this context that much debate has taken place recently about the proposed construction of a mosque near “Ground Zero” of the World Trade Center that was demolished by the terrorists on 9/11. I don’t live in New York, so I will defer to the wise and prudent advice offered by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who invoked the example of Pope John Paul II. In 1993, the Holy Father ordered a community of Carmelite nuns to move from their convent at the former Auschwitz death camp after protests from Jewish leaders. Although many Polish Catholics were also killed at Auschwitz, the Jewish leaders thought the presence of the Catholic nuns detracted from the symbolism of Auschwitz as a place where the Nazis had exterminated millions of Jews. The Carmelite nuns certainly had a right to pray there, but Pope John Paul II was sensitive to the feelings of others and so they moved voluntarily [This seems a reasonable that comparison that I've not seen from others].

Similarly, no one is questioning the legal and constitutional right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but it is more a matter of being sensitive to the feelings of people whose loved ones were murdered in the terrorist attacks. Nor is it a matter of tolerance. Americans are a very tolerant people when it comes to freedom of worship. As at Auschwitz, it is a matter of symbolism. Certainly not all Muslims are terrorists, but all the terrorist attackers on 9/11 were Islamist extremists.

Whenever a Christian mentions Islamist terrorists, someone is usually quick to point to Christian involvement in the Crusades [Only because they neither know nor understand history]. Some Islamist terrorists even claim that their terrorist attacks are revenge for what Christians did in the crusades. Actually, the crusades were responses to Muslim invasions to recapture lands originally occupied primarily by Christians [a point raised only too infrequently]. From approximately A.D. 200 to 900, the land of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey was inhabited primarily by Christians. Once Islam became powerful, Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands.

In response, the Roman Catholic Church and “Christian” kings and emperors from Europe ordered the crusades to reclaim the land the Muslims had taken. I am not trying to defend the Crusades. The actions that many so-called Christians took in the crusades were deplorable and not in keeping with biblical teaching or the mission of Jesus Christ. The point is that Islam is not a religion that can speak from a position of innocence in these matters. In short, the crusades were attempts in the 11th through 13th centuries A.D. to reclaim land in the Middle East that had been conquered by Muslims.

There is much painful history that still divides Christians, Muslims and Jews. We need much more dialogue to overcome these divisions. The way to peace is for all Christians, Muslims and Jews to renounce violence and all acts of terrorism.
The more I read Bishop Paprocki's writings I read, the happier I am that he is my Bishop.

Quincy Pastor Called to Active Duty

Father John Burnette, Pastor of Saint Peter Parish in Quincy and member of the Naval Reserve, has been called to active duty.

He will serve with the Marines in Afghanistan for at least a year, and will leave on the memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, October 4th.

Please keep Father Burnette in your prayers.

10 September 2010

You're invited!

This Sunday Sacred Heart Parish in Virden will host it's 18th Annual Fried Chicken Dinner at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Virden (1320 North Dye Street) from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

The menu includes:

fried chicken
mashed potatoes and gravy
green beans
homemade dessert

Tickets will be $9.00 at the door and carryouts will be available. If you're in the area, why not stop by and visit?

08 September 2010

From what era?

The other day I received a telephone call from the Diocesan Archivist to ask if I would be interested in portraying an individual from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century for a cemetery walk she is planning in October. It would be fun, but I am already scheduled elsewhere the day she had in mind.

In a follow up e-mail, she asked, "Are you sure you aren't from the past?" Naturally, I am sure of this, though sometimes it does seem I would fit better in another era. In fact, this is why she called in the first place, because, as she put, I seem like someone from the early twentieth century.

Even the Chancellor seems to think so. The Archivist put it this way: "you seem to have come from another time based on how you carry yourself and your look to a certain degree." I am happy to accept these thoughts as a compliment.