29 March 2013

The Twelfth Station

In St. Francis of Assisi church
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i, Hawai'i
My Lord Jesus Christ, I pray you to grant me two graces before I die: the first is that during my life I may feel in my soul and in my body, as much as possible, that pain which You, dear Jesus, sustained in the hour of Your most bitter passion.

The second is that I may feel in my heart, as much as possible, that excessive love with which You, O Son of God, were inflamed in willingly enduring such suffering for us sinners.

- Saint Francis of Assisi

27 March 2013

Spy Wednesday

The Wednesday of Holy Week is often called Spy Wednesday because of the passage of the Passion that we hear today at the Holy Mass:
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you" (Matthew 26:14-15).
We sometimes wonder how Judas could betray and sell Jesus for such a small sum, but we forget that we often do the very same (though not always for financial gain).

In his little book On the Passion of Christ According to the Four Evangelists, Thomas a Kempis prayed:
Alas!  How poorly I tolerate a brother when he has said or done something against me.  But you, for so long a time and without complaint, have endured your disciple Judas, who would soon sell and betray you, while I, for a paltry insult, quickly yield to anger and think of various ways of vindicating myself or of offering excuses.  Where then is my patience, where is my meekness?
Help me, good Jesus, and instill the virtue of your meekness in my heart in greater abundance, for without your inspiration and special grace I cannot enjoy peace of soul amid this life's many vexations. 

24 March 2013

Pope Francis' Three Words: Joy, Cross, Youth

Here follows the text of the homily preached by Pope Francis today in St. Peter's Square for the Mass of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, via Vatican Radio and with my emphases:
1. Jesus enters Jerusalem. The crowd of disciples accompanies him in festive mood, their garments are stretched out before him, there is talk of the miracles he has accomplished, and loud praises are heard: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38).

Crowds, celebrating, praise, blessing, peace: joy fills the air. Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, he has bent down to heal body and soul. Now he enters the Holy City!

It is a beautiful scene, full of light, joy, celebration.

At the beginning of Mass, we repeated all this. We waved our palms, our olive branches, we sang “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Antiphon); we too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed our joy at accompanying him, at knowing him to be close, present in us and among us as a friend, a brother, and also as a King: that is, a shining beacon for our lives. And here the first word that comes to mind is “joy!” Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours. Let us bring the joy of the faith to everyone!

2. But we have to ask: why does Jesus enter Jerusalem? Or better: how does Jesus enter Jerusalem? The crowds acclaim him as King. And he does not deny it, he does not tell them to be silent (cf. Lk 19:39-40). But what kind of a King is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: "You are princes but of a Crucified King"...Jesus says: “I am a King”; but his power is God’s power which confronts the world’s evil and the sin that disfigures man’s face. Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including our own sin, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, which no-one can bring with him, my grandmother would say, no shroud has pockets! Greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! Dear friends, we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world: with Christ, with the force of good! Do we feel weak, inadequate, powerless? But God is not looking for powerful means: it is through the Cross that he has conquered evil! We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us: you can do nothing to counter violence, corruption, injustice, your sins! We must never grow accustomed to evil! ... And we must not be afraid of sacrifice. Think of a mother or a father: what sacrifices they make! But why? For love! And how do they bear those sacrifices? With joy, because they are made for their loved ones. Christ’s Cross embraced with love does not lead to sadness, but to joy!

3. Today in this Square, there are many young people: for 28 years Palm Sunday has been World Youth Day! This is our third word: youth! Dear young people, I think of you celebrating around Jesus, waving your olive branches. I think of you crying out his name and expressing your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the celebration of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always, even at the age of seventy or eighty.! A young heart! With Christ, the heart never grows old! Yet all of us, all of you know very well that the King whom we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the Cross and who teaches us to serve and to love. And you are not ashamed of his Cross! 
On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in giving ourselves that we have true joy and that God has conquered evil through love. You carry the pilgrim Cross through all the Continents, along the highways of the world! You carry it in response to Jesus’ call: “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it so as to tell everyone that on the Cross Jesus knocked down the wall of enmity that divides people and nations, and he brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too am setting out on a journey with you, from today, in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We are already close to the next stage of this great pilgrimage of Christ’s Cross. I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well – prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world. Young people must tell the world that it is good to follow Jesus, that it is good to love Jesus and that it is good to go out to the preferies of the world and follow Jesus! 
Three words: Joy, Cross and Youth. 
Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of meeting Christ, the love with which we must look to the foot of the Cross, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him during this Holy Week and throughout our lives. Amen.

20 March 2013

A gift for the Bishop

To celebrate the tenth episcopal anniversary of His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, a good number of the priests of - or who serve in - the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois concelebrated the Holy Mass last evening with the Bishop in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  More than 250 of the faithful also came to pray with and for the Bishop.

A reception was then held in the Cathedral Rectory for the priests in which they had an opportunity to visit the third floor, the Episcopal Residence.  Many priests who had served for decades in the Diocese had not yet been to the third floor and so enjoyed the visit.

In the between the reception and the dinner, the priests who were able to stay after the Mass - or who could attend the dinner but not the Mass - joined His Excellency on the steps of the sanctuary for a photograph to mark the special day:

At the conclusion of the dinner the priests of the Diocese - included many who were unable to join us last evening - presented a gift to the Bishop in gratitude for his pastoral ministry: a new crozier.

The Bishop was touched by the gift and expressed his gratitude to the priests for their pastoral service, together with the joy he experiences at being our Bishop.

This morning I took a full shot of the crozier:

The evening was a most enjoyable one and a great opportunity for priestly fraternity with our Bishop.  Congratulations, Bishop Paprocki!  Ad multos annos!

19 March 2013

My name-day

Having received the middle name of Joseph, today I join Catholic men across the globe - including His Holiness Benedict XVI - in celebrating my name-day (there is no Saint Daren, or - so far as I can tell - its equivalent).

Over at Vultus Christi, Father Mark shared several prayers to Saint Joseph, one of which I particularly like for today's solemnity:
Saint Joseph,I take you this day as my advocate and defender,my counselor and my friend.Open your heart to meas you opened your home to the Virgin Motherin her hour of need.Protect my holy priesthoodas you protected the life of the Infant Christthreatened by cruel Herod.In darkness bring me light;in weakness, strength,and in fear the peace that passes understanding.For the sake of the tender love that bound youto the Virgin Mary and the Infant Christ,be for me, Saint Joseph, a constant intercessorand a shield against every danger of body, mind, and soulso that, in spite of my weaknesses and sins,my priesthood may bring glory to Christand serve to increase the beauty of holinessin his bride the Church.Amen.

A happy anniversary

Ten years ago today His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago consecrated His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki a Bishop.

For us here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, this day is one of many causes for rejoicing:
  • the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
  • Bishop Paprocki's anniversary, who took Joseph as his Confirmation name;
  • Pope Francis' inaugural Mass;
  • and the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on DVD and BluRay (at least for me).
His Excellency will offer the Holy Mass this evening in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 5:15 p.m.

Please join me in congratulating Bishop Paprocki and in praying for him:

O God, eternal shepherd of the faithful,
who tend your Church in countless ways
and rule over her in love,
grant, we pray, that Thomas John, your servant,
whom you have set over your people,
may preside in the place of Christ
over the flock whose shepherd he is,
and be faithful as a teacher of doctrine,
a Priest of sacred worship
and as one who serves them by governing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Pope: We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Via Vatican Radio, here follows the text of the homily preached by His Holiness Pope Francis during the Inaugural Mass for the Petrine Ministry, with my emphases:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened
. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

18 March 2013

Pope Francis' Coat of Arms

The Holy See has quietly published the coat of arms of His Holiness Pope Francis in the section of the official web site devoted to his writings and preaching:

His motto remains the same: miserando atque eligendo, "lowly and yet chosen".

17 March 2013

Have you seen these islands?

Though central Illinois today has been cold (with temperatures in the low 30s) and under low, grey clouds that threaten rain, sleet, or snow (or a combination of the three), the weather on the island of Oahu is absolutely beautiful, as these pictures sent by a good friend evidence:

As I look at these pictures, I am reminded of the song by Danny Couch, "These Islands":

Homily on Saint Patrick

I was for a time pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Girard and since we would observe today the memorial of Saint Patrick - that is, if today were not the Fifth Sunday of Lent - I thought I might share with you again the homily I preached in 2010 on the life of the Apostle to Ireland:

The Solemnity of Saint Patrick

Dear brothers and sisters,

May the Lord give you peace!

On this day we celebrate what is for us the Solemnity of Saint Patrick, our heavenly patron, with much joy and gratitude to God for the bright light that the example of the Apostle to Ireland shines upon our path.

There are, of course, a great many people this day who think they celebrate Saint Patrick, the man who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, with driving snakes from the isle, with using the shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity.  Beyond this, precious little is known by so many who seek to celebrate his feast.

People have put on their green, drunk their beer and will likely dine on corned beef and cabbage for dinner – as many here will do – but in doing so they celebrate a supposed Irish heritage more than Patrick himself.
Who is this man that has led to so much revelry, and why does Mother Church continue to honor him?
The Church celebrates the lives of the Saints because in them we see the light Christ refracted in a great array of colors showing us the many paths on which we may walk in our daily life in following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus.

We see above all in the life of Saint Patrick one who sought to “tell God’s glory among the nations; among all peoples, God’s marvelous deeds,” particularly among the Irish (Psalm 96:3).

In many respects, Saint Patrick remains shrouded in legend; even the dates of his birth and death are uncertain.  We do not even know when he was ordained a priest or even a bishop.  We do know that his father, Calpornius, was a deacon and his grandfather, Potitus, was a priest.  His father was also a government official, with an estate worked by slaves.  Even so, it seems Patrick was not raised in an especially religious family.

He tells us after he was captured by Irish pirates before his sixteenth birthday that at the time he “was indeed ignorant of the true God.”[1]

He was taken to Ireland as a slave and worked tending the sheep for six years.  In the solitude of the fields, longing for his family and fatherland, Patrick found himself praying many times each day.  “More and more the love of God and fear of him came to me,” he says, “and my faith was being increased, and the spirit was being moved.”[2]

Here is one lesson of the Christian life we can take from Saint Patrick: it is in solitude and in times of difficulty that, if we are open to the Lord and humble enough to receive him, his Spirit will stir in our hearts, thus causing us to pray without ceasing.  In fasting and prayer, Patrick encountered the Lord and rested secure in his love. Following his example, we, too, can encounter the Lord in moments of great adversity and dire need.

One night he heard in a dream a voice saying to him, “It is well that you are fasting, soon you will go to your own country.”  A short time later the same voice said to him, “Look, your ship is ready.”[3]

For one hundred and eighty-eight miles Patrick walked until finally he found a pagan ship anchored and ready to depart.  When first he was refused passage, Patrick prayed and one them shouted after him, “Come, because we are receiving you on faith, make friends with us in whatever way you wish.”[4]  Patrick boarded the vessels, hoping to introduce them to Christ.

For three days they sailed and landed in a deserted area.  After being captured again, Patrick walked for twenty-eight days and at last found himself among us kindred once more; the dream of his heart had been answered.  His people, who, he says, received him as a son, begged him never to leave them again.

In another dream a man by the name of Victoricius came to him bringing letters from the Ireland.  The man read one of the letters to Patrick, one from the “Voice of the Irish.”  Patrick heard the voice of the Irish cry out, “as if from one mouth, ‘We request you, holy boy, that you come and walk once more among us…  He who has laid down his own life for you he it is who is speaking in you.’”[5]

After a time Patrick accepted the call of the Irish, finding in it the will of God for his life which he “learned from Christ my Lord” (241).  He gave himself entirely for the people of Ireland so that they might know “the gift so great, so salutary, to know or to love God wholeheartedly, but at the loss of country and kindred” (247).  He would later describe himself as “a slave in Christ for that remote pagan people” and in this he found his joy and peace” (285).

He once said to those to whom he preached, “Would that you, too, would strive for greater things and perform more excellent deeds.  This will be my glory” (257).  These words he addresses to us as well, his spiritual children. 
If we wish to celebrate the life of Saint Patrick and the legacy he has bequeathed to us, we cannot do so with drunken festivities marked with blatant sinfulness; we do so, rather, by striving for greater things, for growth in the virtues of faith, hope, and love.  We honor Saint Patrick by striving for holiness.  Let each of us, then, parishioners under his patronage, seek to be his glory!  Amen.

[1] Saint Patrick, Confessio, 1.  In Patrick the Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland: An Analysis of St Patrick’s Confessio and Epistola, Ed. and trans. Maire B. de Paor (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1998), 221.

[2] Ibid., 16.  In Ibid., 231.

[3] Ibid., 17.  In Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 18.  In Ibid., 233.

[5] Ibid., 23-24.  In Ibid., 237-238.

15 March 2013

Praying for Life

Our Bishops have issued to us a Call to Prayer and a Pledge to Fast for the intentions of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty on Fridays through the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe.

The intention the Bishops have placed before us today is
For all who help to build a Culture of Life: that even in the midst of trials, the Lord would strengthen their faith and help them know His saving power.
Let us join our Bishops in prayer today for this important intention, and let us not forget to pray also for the Holy Father Pope Francis.

Pope Francis: Benedict XVI lit a flame in the depth of our hearts

This morning His Holiness Pope Francis meet with the College of Cardinals in the Sala Clementina.  Below follows the text of his address, with my emphases:
Brother Cardinals,

This period of the Conclave has been filled with meaning not just for the College of Cardinals but also for all the faithful. During these days we have felt almost palpably the affection and solidarity of the universal Church, as well as the attention of many people who, even if not sharing our faith, look upon the Church and the Holy See with respect and admiration.

From every corner of the earth a heart-felt chorus of prayer was raised by Christian peoples for the new Pope, and my first encounter with the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square was an emotional one. With that eloquent image of a praying and joyful populace still fixed in my mind, I would like to manifest my sincere gratitude to the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons, young people, families, and to the aged for their spiritual closeness which is so touching and sincere.

I feel the need to express my deepest gratitude to all of you, venerable and dear Brother Cardinals, for your collaboration in running the Church during the Sede Vacante. I greet, to begin with, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, who I thank with expressions of devotion for the kind wishes he extended to me in your name. With him I thank Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, for his fine work during this delicate transition phase, and also Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who led us in the Conclave. Many thanks! I think with particular affection of the venerable Cardinals who, because of age or illness, assured us of their participation and love for the Church by offering their suffering and prayers. And I would like to inform them that, the day before yesterday, Cardinal Mejia had a heart attack and is in hospital. I believe he is in stable condition and he has sent us his greetings.

I cannot forget to thank all those, who in so many ways, worked to prepare and conduct the Conclave, ensuring the safety and tranquillity of the Cardinals during this very important time in the life of the Church.

I extend an especially affectionate thought, filled with gratitude, to my venerable predecessor, Benedict XVI, who, during the years of his pontificate enriched and invigorated the Church with his teaching, his goodness, guidance, faith, humility, and his meekness, which will remain the spiritual patrimony of all. The Petrine ministry, lived with total dedication, found in him a wise and humble interpreter with his gaze always fixed on Christ, the Risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist. Our fervent prayer will always accompany him, our eternal memory, and affectionate gratitude. We feel that Benedict XVI lit a flame in the depth of our hearts, a flame that continues to burn because it will be fanned by his prayers that will continue to sustain the Church on its spiritual and missionary journey.

Dear Brother Cardinals, this meeting of ours is meant to be the continuation of that intense ecclesial communion we experienced during this period. Animated by a profound sense of responsibility and sustained by a great love for Christ and for the Church, we prayed together, fraternally sharing our feelings, our experiences and reflections. In this very cordial atmosphere our reciprocal knowledge of one another and mutual openness to one another, grew. And this is good because we are brothers. As someone told me: the Cardinals are the Holy Father’s priests. But we are that community, that friendship, that closeness, that will do good for every one of us. That mutual knowledge and openness to one another helped us to be open to the action of Holy Spirit. He, the Paraclete, is the supreme protagonist of every initiative and manifestation of faith. It’s interesting and it makes me think. The Paraclete creates all the differences in the Church and seems like an apostle of Babel. On the other hand, the Paraclete unifies all these differences – not making them equal – but in harmony with one another. I remember a Church father who described it like this: “Ipse harmonia est.” The Paraclete gives each one of us a different charism, and unites us in this community of the Church that adores the Father, the Son, and Him – the Holy Spirit.

Starting from the authentic collegial affection that united the College of Cardinals, I express my desire to serve the Gospel with renewed love, helping the Church to become ever more in Christ and with Christ, the fruitful life of the Lord. Stimulated by the Year of Faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person. This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.

As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us so many times in his teachings and, finally, with that courageous and humble gesture, it is Christ who guides the Church through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, with His life-giving and unifying strength. Of many He makes a single body – the mystical Body of Christ. Let us never give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil tempts us with every day. Let us not give into pessimism and let us not be discouraged. We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelise, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Christian truth is attractive and convincing because it responds to the deep need of human existence, announcing in a convincing way that Christ is the one Saviour of the whole of man and of all men. This announcement is as valid today as it was at the beginning of Christianity when the Church worked for the great missionary expansion of the Gospel.

Dear Brothers, have courage! Half of us are old: I like to think of old age as the seat of wisdom in life. Old people have wisdom because they know they have journeyed through life – like the aged Simeon and Anna in the Temple. It was that wisdom that allowed them to recognise Jesus. We must give this wisdom to young people: like good wine that improves with age, let us give young people this life’s wisdom. I’m reminded of what a German poet said about aging: “Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm” – “age is the time of peace and prayer”. We need to give young people this wisdom.

You are returning to your respective Sees to continue your ministry, enriched by these days so filled with faith and ecclesial communion. This unique and incomparable experience has allowed us to capture all the beauty of the ecclesial reality, which is a refection of the light of the Risen Christ: one day we shall gaze upon the beautiful face of that Risen Christ.

I commit my ministry, and your ministry, to the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church. Beneath her maternal gaze, may each one of us walk and listen to the voice of her divine Son, strengthening unity, persevering together in prayer and giving witness to the true faith in the continual presence of the Lord. With these sentiments, sincere sentiments, I impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your collaborators and to the people under your pastoral care.

Pope Francis: When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness

Yesterday the Holy Father Pope Francis concelebrated the Holy Mass with the Cardinal Electors in the Sistine Chapel.  Below is the text of his homily, with my emphases:

In these three readings, I see a common element: that of movement. In the first reading, it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading, the movement of building the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, the movement involved in professing the faith. Journeying, building, professing.
Journeying. "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord" (Is 2:5). This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and live blamelessly. Journeying: our life is a journey, and when we stop moving, things go wrong. Always journeying, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with the blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.
Building. Building the Church. We speak of stones: stones are solid; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself. This is another kind of movement in our lives: building.
Thirdly, professing. We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.
Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.
My prayer for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ crucified. Amen.

14 March 2013

Ponderables from the Poverello

Look at your dignity, you brothers [who are] priests, and be holy since He is holy.  And as the Lord God has honored you above all other persons because of this ministry, so you should love, reverence, and honor Him above all others.  It is a great misery and a miserable weakness that when you have Him present within you in this way, you concern yourselves with anything else in this entire world.
- Saint Francis of Assisi

Two very different but enjoyable packages

Today turned out to be a quiet mail day, but a very happy one nonetheless.
The first item to arrive as a box of books (fewer things make me happier than books).  Ignatius Press recently had a generous sale on their books written by His Holiness XVI so I took the occassion as an opportunity to fill in a few missing holes in my library:
Now I just need another vacation to read them.  Much of my recent vacation was spent like this:

...often with a Dr Pepper near by.

The second item that arrived today in the mail is very much related to the image above.  A good friend on Oahu sent me, just for fun, "a Hawaiian postcard."


At one point as hiked about the island, he remarked, "For somone who doesn't like coconut, you like to take pictures of coconut trees."  I couldn't argue that.  The humorous gift brought a much-needed smile to my face at a frustrating moment in the day.

Habemus Papam! Five Thoughts

By now you've certainly heard that we have a Pope, Francis.  Many of you have been asking my thoughts about the new Bishop of Rome.  Yesterday being a busy day I didn't really have anything to offer, but now I might.

First, it really doesn't matter what I think one way or the other.  Whether I approve of his election or not does not change the fact that he is the Supreme Pontiff and that we owe to him a filial devotion and obedience and we should remember him in our prayers each day.  We should all remember this.

Second, I don't really know anything Pope Francis' background except what I've been able to read since yesterday afternoon.  John Allen's piece on him seems to be the best I've read so far.

The media - as might be expected - has been making a big deal about his extraordinary care for the poor by trying to juxtapose it against his defence of the teachings of Jesus Christ, as if social justice could should be separated from right belief.  In reality, Pope Francis is simply a man who strives to follow faithfully after Jesus Christ by both holding to the truth and serving the least brethren of the Lord.  There is in this a great lesson for us all.

Third, many are, I think, over exaggerating the displays of his personal humility by stressing such things as his "shunning" - not my word - of some of the papal regalia (at least for the time being).  In time he may began to use more of the symbols of his office, or he may not; we do not know.  All of this can be a sign of his own humility but this does not mean - as many seem to be suggesting - the wearing of the full pontificals indicates a lack of humility.  Anyone who has met His Holiness Benedict XVI - who made frequent use of the full papal vesture - knows him to be a man of genuine humility.  I do hope Pope Francis will follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI, but he must be his own man.

In this regard, I often think of the words of Pope Saint Pius X who hated the regalia of his used but made use of it nevertheless.  To one friend he wrote: "Look how they have dressed me up."  To another, he wrote, "It is certainly a penance to be forced to accept all these practices.  They lead me about surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemane."  To dislike the trappings so much and still to wear them, that shows no less humility than not wearing the trappings; to my mind, it demonstrates a greater humility.  There are times when each of us has to do things we would rather not do simply because they fitting.

To be sure, I do not write the above as a judgment of Pope Francis, nor do I condmen him; please don't take it as such.  He must do what he feels is best.  On this matter there can be a cordial disagreement that need not lessen unity.

Fourth, what immediately struck me as he walked out on the loggia to greet the world was the look on his face.  He seemed to desire to be anywhere else in the world.  He look stunned and terrified, really.

He did not wave.  He did not smile.  He simply stood there.

When he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Beunos Aires, he took as his episcopal motto miserando atque eligendo ("lowly and yet chosen").  As he stood motionless on the balcony looking out upon the faithful the sincerity of these words was most evident.  He knows himself to be unworthy of so lofty an office and for this reason I think he will be a fine Universal Pastor.

But when the time came for him to smile and to speak to the people, both his smile and his words were genuine and from the heart.

He is, it seems, a quiet man who would rather fade away into the background; his new office will not really allow him to do that.  I am glad he said accepto and hope the Lord will give him many consolations in the days and years to come.

Fifth, his name.  For years now people have asked me what name I would choose when I am elected Pope.  Confident that this will never happen, I have always said I would choose to be called Pope Francis (meaning the First).  Now I suppose I will not be able to do that.

Longtime readers of this blog will now of my deep love for and devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi and the Pope's choosing of this name is fitting occassion for me to resume what was once a daily feature on this blog: Ponderables from the Poverello, daily quotes from Saint Francis.

I hope that Pope Francis will lead people to learn more about the Poverello and to discover the animal-loving gentle hippy image is far from the reality (Emily Stimpson has a good post on this).

From yesterday forward, we will no longer be able to speak of "our Holy Father Francis" with reference simply to the thirteenth Saint who renounced his father's wealth to embrace Lady Poverty and the Cross; now, we will have to be specific: Do we mean the man from Assisi or the man who is the Successor of Saint Peter?  Things could be tricky for a while in Franciscan circles.

To His Holiness Pope Francis, I pledge my willing obedience and filial devotion, and I promise a remembrance in my prayers.

12 March 2013

On Rich Mullins

Since June of 1995 the music of Rich Mullins has easily been among my favorite and his music can be frequently heard playing through my iPhone (together with various Hawaiian music).  It was Rich who gave me a love of the hammer dulcimer.

There is something disarmingly simple in his music; at the same time, his lyrics contain a depth of profundity which strike straight to the heart.  Rich had a way of expressing in his music the sentiments of my heart that I often had - and sometimes still do - a difficult time putting into words.  Such is the power of music, isn't it?

Tragically, he died just a short time before he was to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 1997.

Patrick Breeman has a good post over at First Things in which he takes a look at the life of Rich Mullins.  He includes in the post a number of quotes from Rich, which are all worth reading.

In these days without a Pope, we might especially consider this one:
More than ever before, I think that a great part of the Holy Spirit in our lives is played out through what the Catholic Church would call a Eucharistic community, and that’s the thing that is lacking in Protestantism. If Christ is head of the body, the body has to be together.
A short time after his death a video was made describing the course of his life.  The video, titled Homeless Man: The Restless Heart of Jesus, is available on YouTube:

If you haven't yet heard Rich's music, I highly encourage you to listen to some of his songs; you won't be disappointed. His music culminated in his album The Jesus Record, though he died before he was able to professional record it.  Providentially, he did record it on a casette tape in an old church.  When the album was recorded by others in the business, his version was included and is a great witness to the beauty of his faith and of his closeness to the Lord:

Seminarian Blogs

Several of the seminarians for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois have blogs, which they update with varying degrees of regularity:
A couple of the blogs, you'll likely note, have not updated in a while.  Maybe this will help with that.

Around the blogosphere

As I begin catching up on my Google Reader, I thought I might pass along a few posts I hope you'll find interesting, or at least useful:

Why priests?

Father Robert Barron ably answers Gary Wills' question, "Why priests?":

Let us pray

O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holines and to show us watchful care.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

09 March 2013

Who doesn't read on vacation?

Whenever I visit the home of a friend I always make a point to visit their bookcases and have a look through their library, however large or small.  Whenever I visit the home of a stranger, I do my best to steal a glance at their library.  I do this because you can learn a lot about someone by knowing what books he or she reads.

With this in mind, I thought you might be interested to know what books I read on my recent vacation back in Hawai'i, from which I returned late last night:
  1. Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology - for the second time - by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).  If memory serves, this was the first book of Cardinal Ratzinger that I read and ever since I finished the final page I hungered for more of his writings.  His thoughts in this book really get, I suggest, at the heart of His Holiness Benedict XVI.  If the media had read this book nine years ago, all of the talk of the so-called "Panzer Cardinal" would have been shown to be unfounded and would have vanished.  This little book makes reading during Holy Week.
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012).  This was the second time I read this book, too.  It is the best book on introversion that I have ever read and approaches the tendency to introversion through a physiological approach, but in a very readable way, and provides helpful advice for extroverts dealing with introverts and for introverts dealing with extraverts.
  3. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000).  This book is necessary reading for anyone who wants to get to know the heart of Tolkien.
  4. Jesus Christus: A Classic Meditation on Christ by the Author of The Lord by Romano Guardini (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, Inc., 2012.  I believe this book is compiled of excerpts from Guardini's The Lord, though I cannot confirm that.  This short book is an excellent series of meditations perfect for Lenten reading and has caused me to move The Lord to the front of my shelf of books "to be read".
  5. The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church by John Thavis (New York: Viking, 2013).  This book is perhaps not for the weak of heart as it exposes some of the failures of members - both low and high - of the Curia.  The accounts will make you laugh  and sighs at the failures of those who should clearly know better, even as they also remind you clearly of the promise of Jesus that the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church.
It seems to me that I also read a sixth book, but I cannot recall at the moment what it might have been (it's probably in a box I shipped home that should arrive on Monday).

Update: It just occurred to me to check my LibraryThing.com account to find the sixth book:
6. The Quest for the Creed: What the Apostles Really Believed, and Why It Matters by Dwight Longenecker (The Crossroard Publishing Company, 2013).  This is a good overview of the Catholic faith for those who may have fallen away but are maybe thinking of returning.

03 March 2013

Homily - 3 March 2013 - The Third Sunday of Lent

The Third Sunday of Lent (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

A girl - the daughter of his publisher - once wrote J.R.R. Tolkien asking him the fundamental question, "What is the purpose of life?" Ordinarily, when someone asks this question we tend to laugh it off as though the question had no answer. Tolkien did not.

In his response - which he said was "much too long, and also much too short - he pointed ouT that "if you do not believe in a personal God the question: 'What is the purpose of life?' is unaskable and unanswerable." But Tolkien, being a faithful and devout Catholic, did believe in a personal God; so it was that he answered her question in these words: "So it may be said that the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks."

In the depths of our hearts, each of us knows his understanding of the fundamental meaning of life to be true. If we did not, we would not be here this morning to offer the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We know that at the heart of this current Makahiki Kalele - this Year of Faith - "is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world (Porta Fidei, 7)." If we are to make this renewed conversion to the Lord, it will only be because we have come to know him more clearly and more intimately.

If we are to know the Lord it is first necessary that he reveal himself to us, as he did to Moses through the bush that burned with the mysterious flame (cf. Exodus 3:2). Though he may not have used such dramatic means to reveal himself to us, to you and to me, we can be certain that he has revealed himself to us. The natural beauty of these very islands are filled with many signs of God's involvement with the world. He has also revealed himself to us in many other ways, but in none so profound as in the person of Jesus Christ in whom "God has visited his people" (Luke 7:16).

He has revealed himself to us also in our baptisms, when we received a share in his divine life and were joined to the Body of Christ, the Church. He reveals himself in the Scriptures, in the Eucharist, and in the Church.  Sadly, sometimes we simply are not paying attention to him.

When Moses first saw that bush, he drew near to it because he saw that the bush, "though on fire, was not consumed" (Exodus 3:2). There is in this detail an important lesson for us: Moses could simply have glanced at the bush and continued on his way, minding his own business and tending the flock, but he did not.

The curiosity of Moses indicates his openness to the Divine, his search for the Lord. His openness led to his encounter with the God-who-is and his life would never be the same. Rather, his life took the form of a greater knowledge of God through his relationship with him, which also led him to give praise and thanks. Moses' life took the shape of a life of faith and because of his faith he produced great fruit, even if not all the time.

If we look at our own lives, can we say that they have taken the shape of lives of faith? Has the direction of our lives turned towards the Lord because of our encounter with him? Do we seek to come to a deeper knowledge of God, born of love, that leads to Praise and thanks? In short, we might well ask, does my life bear the kind of fruit the Lord has come in search of, the love of God and of neighbor?

Romano Guardini once commented that "two thin veils keep us from seeing the living truth of Jesus." The first is "the veil of our ignorance." We simply do not know the Lord well - or much about him - because we do not spend enough time speaking with him in prayer, reading the Scriptures, or studying his life.

The second "veil is that we think we know, but in truth are just accustomed to hearing the same words, episodes, statements over over again." We simply go through the motions, as it were, and fall into a sort of religiously molded routine, without actually thinking about what it is that we do or what gives direction to our lives.

We, like, Moses must recognize the signs of God's presence in our lives; we must be open to encountering him, to knowing him, and to being conquered by him. Only if we live in this way will we live the purpose for which we have been created by Love, in love, and for love; only in this way will our lives bear fruit. Because the Lord wants to find such fruit in our lives, he is "merciful and gracious," "Slow to anger and abounding in kindness" (Psalm 103:8). He is patient with us as we make our pilgrimage toward his face, sometimes faithfully and sometimes sinfully, because of his great love for us.

Just as the Lord said to Moses so he says to each of us: " I have witnessed the affliction of my people ... and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what we are suffering. Therefore I will come down to rescue them" (Exodus 3:7-8).

What temptation, what sin enslaves us? If we turn to the Lord and seek his mercy he will set us free, but first we must allow his love to permeate our hearts and shape our lives. "If we welcome [his love] with faith," wrote His Holiness Benedict XVI in his Message for Lent 2013, "we receive the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us 'fall in love with Love', and then we dwell within his Love, we grow in it and we joyfully communicate it to others."

This, dear friends, is the fruit the Lord desires to find in us. He found this fruit in Father Damien and in Mother Marianne in their love for the residents of Kalawao and Kalaupapa. Through their intercession and example, may he also find this fruit in us when at last he comes in search of fruit (cf. Luke 13:6-7). Amen.

N.B. Footnotes to be added later.