31 October 2014

UPDATED (again): A Halloween Round Up

As we draw closer to the annual celebration of Halloween, we are likely to see repeated claims that Halloween is, at its root, pagan and even Satanic. This, of course, is simply not true and the origins of the celebrations as they have down to us today are a bit convoluted.

To help you prepare for Halloween and maybe to learn a little something or two, here are a few links that may be of interest to you (some of which I've posted before):

29 October 2014

Cardinal George's homily on Father Tolton and on saints

One month ago today, His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, concluded the final phase of the diocesan investigation into the life and virtues of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton by giving his signature to the final documents and sealing the acts to be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It was an important day in the history of the Archdiocese, the history of Illinois, and in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States of America, and I remain very happy I was able to be present.

I noticed this morning that a video recording of the ceremony, conducted within the context of Midday Prayer, has been posted to the web site of the Cause:

This semester, I have Wednesdays free, so I took the opportunity today to transcribe the homily preached that day by Cardinal George:

In these days, as I look towards retirement, people often ask, “What do you think was most important in what happened, or what you did or what happened to you, in the seventeen years and more that you served the People of God in this Archdiocese as their Archbishop?” And there are many truly important, significant events in the Church and in society that fill these years - sometimes to joy, sometimes with sorrow - but I truly believe that the introduction of the Cause of Father Augustus Tolton whose sanctity, recognized by the Church, is one of the most important – if not the most important – events of these past seventeen years. At least unique events. The sacramental life of the Church is, of course, event by event, always most important in terms that it puts us in contact with the Risen Lord. But in terms of ecclesiastical actions, there are many things that are unique, but few that are as unique as this.
The Church over the centuries has ordained many priests, most of them quite holy, in small ways, some in very great ways, some in martyrs, some who betrayed the priesthood and themselves. And in recent years in this country, we have heard a lot, haven’t we, about priests who have betrayed their priesthood and betrayed young people, and those wounds will be with us for generations to come and remain in the lives of victims whom we talk to and watch the way in which evil, even in forgiven people, has long-ranging consequences. But virtue also has long-ranging consequences, and virtue is stronger than evil, forgiveness is great than sin.
In the case of Father Tolton, it was important that there be a name of a holy priest, from our history, long before the current history in the current development in the Archdiocese, which happened really only after his death in the way in which we experience it now, very important that would recognize that from the beginning this Diocese has been served by priests who have been made holy by the Lord because they have loved his people as ordained priests.
And Father Tolton was such a one, in love with Christ and his Church and suffered much in order to be ordained a priest and dedicated himself entirely to his people, quietly and in his own way. Each saint has his own personality, her own of looking at things, but each of them is a friend of the Lord and to make that friendship public and to do it in a way that assures people that here is an exemplar, assures people that here is an intercessor, assures people that here is someone whom we want to be friends with now and for eternity, that is a very important thing to do.
History is what God remembers; the rest passes.  In the Church, therefore, we have a very different sense of what is important in the history of the human race, for it isn’t a story of individual progress in freedom that is important - although freedom is also a Gospel virtue and we were created free and should use our freedom well – but that’s important only if it also helps us to advance in holiness. The Church’s history is the history of holiness, not the history of conquests of freedoms of various sorts, which is why we celebrate the death of saints, for that is when they are confirmed in holiness; that is when we know that they are with the Lord forever, whereas the civic calendar holidays are not holy days at all. They celebrate the birth of someone who in the course of his lifetime or her lifetime will do something of importance for society. Our calendars are very different because our sense of history is very different. So here we have, we hope, in time, a new date in our calendar of heroes, a new moment to tell all of us that we are here to become saints; everything else is of very, very secondary importance.
It’s often in our society today as we read the papers and contemplate what is going on and try to rearrange the mission of the Church in such a way that she can be a leaven for God’s grace, we recognize that our country can be a very good place in which to be free. That is still true and we should rejoice in that, but it can also be a very difficult place in which to be holy and that is, in the end, the way we will all be judged.
And so it is our responsibility, as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, throughout the world, to act in place after place in such a way that people will realize that sanctity is not only possible, sanctity is our goal. Sanctity is what God wants for us. Sanctity is what gives us the promise that will not only be saved, but that we will be truly saints, that we will be friends with the Lord for all eternity. Father Augustus Tolton’s cause gives us further certitude in that conviction and I thank God that we are able to bring the Diocesan part of the preparation for his sanctity to conclusion today.
Bishop Perry thanked many people, he’s welcomed many people, so perhaps many of those same people I can thank even as they’ve been made welcome. Doctor Ambrosi, the Postulator, is not here but he’s worked hard, he’s very skilled at this, and he’s helped us a lot. But the Vice Postulator, the Diocesan Postulator, in charge here has been from the beginning Bishop Joseph Perry, who has given himself to this task in ways that, as we all know who know Joe, are very thorough, very quiet, very unassuming, and very, very, effective. And so I thank him. I thank the episcopal delegate, the promoter of justice, ecclesiastical notaries, the historical commission members, the theological commission members, all of those who have fulfilled their tasks in accordance with the instruction given us by the Holy See to assemble the acts so that they can be sent now to the Holy See in order to be processed along with all the reports of favors received so that perhaps, if is God’s will, we will at, some point, many of us at least, some of us, be able to talk about Saint Augustus Tolton, priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

If you do not love & respect our Holy Father because he does not think like you - PLEASE unfriend yourself from my page! Where were these admonitions under Pope Benedict?

I saw this morning that a priest-classmate of mine "liked" a status update written by another priest. The update reads as follows:
Ok, I have had it! If you are one of those who will not love and respect our Holy Father because he does not think like you - PLEASE unfriend yourself from my page! I do not want to continue to read the slander of people who call themselves Catholic and spit on the Chair of Peter! As the saints have said "where there is Peter there is the Church [sic]! You do not have to agree with Pope Francis but you must love and respect him! I will die to defend him!
I should first like to point that rather than asking others to "unfriend" on social media sites because you do not like their posts, it seems more appropriate for you to "unfriend" them yourself. Be that as it may, I should next like to say that his request is not the only one along these lines I have seen.

There seems to be little toleration these days on social media sites for anyone who disagrees with Pope Francis, and very often disagreeing with him about matters which relate more to questions of prudential judgments (for example, how best to address a pastoral concern or how to phrase a particular concern) - on which people of good will and of good faith can legitimately disagree - are quickly interpreted as "hating" or "disrespecting" Pope Francis. However, sometimes, as Phil Lawler recently pointed out, sometimes disagreeing with an individual Pope is a sign of respect for the papacy. Cardinal Burke recently said something similar, as well.

There are certainly those who take their criticisms - whether just or unjust - of some of Pope Francis' decisions or methods of arriving at certain decisions too far. This is why there are several Catholic blogs I do not read. But there were Catholics who did the same with Benedict XVI.

This is what most struck me about the status update quoted above: As I said, I have seen several similar postings on social media sites regarding those who strongly disagreeing with Pope Francis, but I do not remember ever seeing the same people say the same against those who vehemently disagreed with Benedict XVI. Where were the calls for civil decency then? Where the offers to lay down their lives for the predecessor of Pope Francis? Where were the demands for respect and love?

Please, I am not criticizing any one particular person with this post; that is certainly not my intent. The status update above, rather, provides an occasion to ask a few important questions about how we use social media and how we speak about and relate to the person of the Pope.

Pope Francis clearly has tremendous admiration for his predecessor, of whom he recently spoke very highly:
Benedict XVI: a great Pope. Great for the strength and penetration of his intelligence; great for his important contribution to theology; great for his love in addressing the Church and human beings; great for his virtue and his religiosity.
Pope Francis has repeatedly referred to Benedict XVI as a grandfather;it may be time for others to do the same.

Tolton: A priest who might have been martyred and a story that needs to be told - But our help is needed

Right up until the eve of his ordination as a priest of Jesus Christ, the Servant of God Augustus Tolton thought the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith would send him as a missionary to Africa. That, after all, had been the plan all along and the reason he spent the previous six years studying the history and cultures of the African continent.

Shortly before his ordination to the priesthood, then-Deacon Gus wrote to Father Michael Richardt, O.F.M., through whose efforts Gus was first accepted at the Propaganda, to inform the friar that, "My seminary studies are about over now and I will go on to Africa right after my ordination in April."

In her biography of Father Tolton - From Slave to Priest: A Biography of the Rev. Augustine Tolton (1854-1897), First Afro-American Priest of the United States, which was first published by Franciscan Herald Press in 1973 and has been republished by Ignatius Press (I'm happy to have an autographed copy of the first edition, though the dust jacket has seen better days) - Sister Caroline Hemesath, O.S.F., relates the experience of the night Tolton learned he would not be sent to Africa:
On Good Friday, April 23, 1886, the day before his ordination, Augustine Tolton's faith was put to a test. On that occasion Cardinal Giovanni Simeoni, addressed the assembled deacons. "Each one of you," reminded the cardinal, "has already taken the "Propaganda Oath" which binds you to obedience and fealty; because you are students of the pontifical college you must go wherever you are sent by papal delegation.

Augustine nodded his head approvingly as the speaker continued: "Today you must take another oath, namely, to remain in the country and diocese for which you will be ordained. Permission to go elsewhere may be granted only by the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith."

It was certainly understood, and from the very beginning, that Augustine Tolton, the American Negro, was destined to go to Africa. He had gained admittance to the papal college through the efforts of Father Bernardin, superior general of the Franciscan Order, and on the ground that he was willing and eager to serve as a missionary in Africa.

Before the time set for the deacons to sign the final oath, Augustine spoke with Cardinal Parocchi. "I know I am going to Africa, Your Eminence," he said with a happy smile, "but can you tell me to which diocese or province I will be assigned?"

Cardinal Simeoni
"It was our intention all along, Gus," answered the cardinal. "Even in our last meeting most of the members thought that you would not go back to your diocese in America. It seems we have no contact with your American bishop. We are all agreed that since you are the only priest of your race in that country, that you would perhaps not succeed very well. Then just before the meeting closed Cardinal Simeoni had this idea: 'America needs Negro priests. America has been called the most enlightened nation. We will see whether it deserves that honor. If the United States has never seen a Black priest it must see one now.' Then we all felt that Cardinal Simeoni was right. Come now, Gus, and sign the oath that you will spend the rest of your life in the United States of America, in the Illinois diocese."
So it was that at the age of 31, Augustus Tolton was ordained a priest by Cardinal Lucido Parocchi in the Basilica of St. John on the Lateran hill, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, on April 24, 1886. After celebrating his first Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter the following day at a temporary altar within the sanctuary normally reserved for cardinals he began his long journey home.

Father Gus left the Eternal City that Pentecost and made his way back to Quincy and celebrated his first Mass in the Gem City on July 18, 1886, which was attended by more than 1,500 of the faithful.

But all of this could have been very different indeed.

Writing yesterday in The Boston Pilot, John Garvey makes an excellent observation that, I'm ashamed to say, never quite occurred to me:
It was a courageous assignment to seek. One month after Father Tolton was ordained, Charles Lwanga and his companions would be massacred in Uganda for embracing the Catholic faith. Father Tolton, who clearly took after his mother, was willing to brave such an environment.

But God had other plans: to serve the church in a nation that openly disdained him because of the color of his skin.
Saint Charles Lwanga (numbered 13 here) and Companions
Yes, it could all have been so very different; Father Tolton might easily have been a martyr in Africa, yet the Lord chose to send him to us instead as a model of perseverance and long-suffering, of gentleness and charity, an example so greatly needed today. I, for one, am deeply grateful for the life and witness of Father Gus and think the story of his life needs to be made known more and more.

It was one month ago today that His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago concluded the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Father Tolton and sent the acts of the Cause to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (video here). Now we wait for this Cause to progress through the Congregation to the Holy Father and pray it will do so swiftly.

In the weeks following that moving ceremony, the story of Father Gus has slowly continued to spread, thanks in part to articles published by Catholic News Service, Crux, Breibart, and even Al Jazeera, but his story needs to spread still farther.

With this in mind, I'm excited beyond words to learn that Leonardo Defilippis of St. Luke Productions is working on a live dramatic presentation of the life of Father Gus that he hopes to have ready for performance one year from now.

I've worked before with Leonardo and his production on the life of Saint John Marie Vianney. Leonardo is a man of exceptional talent whose faith and devotion shines through his theatrical work. If you have the opportunity to see one of his shows, do not hesitate to go; you will not be disappointed. Your heart will be touched, your faith will be strengthened, and you will be encouraged. Having seen Leonardo's work before, my anticipation of this drama is already brimming over!

Leonardo wants to help make Father Gus' life more well known, but to do so he needs our help; he needs the help of our prayers and the help of our financial gifts. Says Leonardo:
I need to raise $75,000 to pay for this production. Can you send something right away, so that I can get started? $100 would be terrific - but if you send more, we could sure use it. And, of course, if you can send less, I will be very, very grateful for whatever you can manage.
I made my contribution this morning and I ask you to consider making a contribution, as well. You can make a contribution with a credit card here or you can send a donation to the following address:
Saint Luke Productions
P.O. Box 886
Battle Ground, Washington 98604
Together we can help spread the inspirational story of the life and faith of Father Gus across the nation.

28 October 2014

"Behold, your Mother!"

Detail, L'Avvocata, written by St. Luke, house in the Dominican Convent on Monte Mario in Rome
“Mary is Mother, and one cannot conceive any other title of Mary that is not ‘Mother.” She is Mother, because she brings us Jesus and she helps us with the strength of the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus will be born and grow in us. She constantly gives us life. She is Mother of the Church. She is maternity. We do not have the right  -- and if we [think we do] we are mistaken – to have a psychology of orphans. A Christian does not have the right to be an orphan. He has a Mother! We have a Mother.”

- Pope Francis

26 October 2014

A thought from King Alfred the Great

He seems to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.
 - King Alfred the Great (d. October 26, 899)

Before you go to Mass today, read this

Given the Gospel of the day, today seems a fitting time to share one of my favorite passages from Benedict XVI's first encyclical letter, Deus caritas est (God is love):
Here we need to consider yet another aspect: this sacramental “mysticism” is social in character, for in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants. As Saint Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape also became a term for the Eucharist: there God's own agape comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us. Only by keeping in mind this Christological and sacramental basis can we correctly understand Jesus' teaching on love. The transition which he makes from the Law and the Prophets to the twofold commandment of love of God and of neighbour, and his grounding the whole life of faith on this central precept, is not simply a matter of morality—something that could exist apart from and alongside faith in Christ and its sacramental re-actualization. Faith, worship and ethos are interwoven as a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God's agape. Here the usual contraposition between worship and ethics simply falls apart. “Worship” itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented. Conversely, as we shall have to consider in greater detail below, the “commandment” of love is only possible because it is more than a requirement. Love can be “commanded” because it has first been given (14, emphases mine).

Not a bad reflection before heading off to the Holy Mass.

25 October 2014

ISIS Updates - October 2014

Given the great length of my original post containing daily updates on the activities of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, I thought it might be good to being a new post of ongoing daily updates here. I expect to do this each month.

31 October 2014
30 October 2014
29 October 2014
28 October 2014
27 October 2014
24 October 2014
23 October 2014
22 October 2014
21 October 2014
20 October 2014
19 October 2014
18 October 2014
17 October 2014
16 October 2014
15 October 2014
14 October 2014
13 October 2014
12 October 2014
11 October 2014
10 October 2014
9 October 2014
8 October 2014
7 October 2014
6 October 2014
5 October 2014
4 October 2014
3 October 2014
2 October 2014
1 October 2014