Friday, July 30, 2010

Pope Benedict's Prayer Intentions for August


Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for August is: "That those who are without work or homes or who are otherwise in serious need may find understanding and welcome, as well as concrete help in overcoming their difficulties".

His mission intention is: "That the Church may be a 'home' for all people, ready to open her doors to any who are suffering from racial or religious discrimination, hunger or wars forcing them to emigrate to other countries".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pope Benedict's Catechesis on the Seraphic Doctor, Reprise

Just this past March the Holy Father devoted two weeks of his Wednesday catechesis to one of the Church's great medieval minds, Saint Bonaventure (who had a great impact on Pope Benedict's own formation).  You can read them in full here and here.

Saint Bonaventure: "Seek the Answer in God's Grace"

From the Office of Readings
From the Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure
Mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.
For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.
Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fr. Barron on True American Freedom

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Fr. Barron has a great analysis of proper freedom in the "American Experiment".  Definitely worth a listen here.  

We Americans embrace freedom. However, a proper understanding of freedom must inform our celebration of it. In both classical philosophy and the Bible, "freedom is not so much individual choice as the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good, first possible, then effortless." This freedom may seem confining, but it is actually liberating for it aligns oneself to the truth. In Christ, by whom we are created equal in dignity, we become free. As Catholics, we can embrace America's protection of equal rights, but we must be critical of modern interpretations of freedom.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

St. Gregory the Great on the Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope
My Lord and my God
Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.
Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.
Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith. When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.
What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practises what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.

Religious Orders Strong in Catholic Identity and Mission are Booming

This is a partial response to an email I received from a friend.  He got into a conversation with a colleague about the decline of all religious orders in the Church, citing one group in particular.  Here it is:

As far as all religious orders being in “decline”, we have to distinguish.  If by decline your friend means the replacement rate is not keeping up with the death/attrition/etc rate, than perhaps he is correct.  HOWEVER, the number of incoming, new vocations shows the vitality of any religious order/congregation/etc (we’ll just use “order” to refer to them all).  So if we use the number of entrants to orders as an indicator of decline or growth, we see there are definite pockets of boom and some orders destined for inevitable death.  I don’t like to use the terms “liberal” or “conservative” since we are discussing religion and not politics, but it appears the more traditional/orthodox orders are attracting more applicants, as the more progressive, less-traditional/orthodox ones are waning.

Some examples

The Dominican Friars of the Eastern Province just announced their largest incoming class in 50 years—21 novices.  The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (the ones at St. Pius V in Providence) had 23 postulants in 2009—the largest group of nuns in training of any US group.  The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist  were founded in Ann Arbor in 1997 by 4 Nashville Dominican Sisters.  They now number 100 sisters with an average age of 26!  No polyester pantsuits here.

Religious that have defied Church teaching or have distilled their ministry to mere social work have seen a decline to the point where many will just fade away.  The Orders that have a strong identity and traditional Catholic charisms are attracting new members.  The young men and women who are responding to religious (and priestly) vocations are immersed in a secularized culture that even our age group is not a part of, and they have more options than any other generation.  It is no surprise, then, that when young people respond to a religious vocation--a call to devote their lives to something so radically different than their contemporaries--they jump in with both feet.  If they are going to be that counter-cultural and have seen such a need to spread the Gospel, watch out because they are going to do it!  The CARA study from Georgetown University gives us evidence of what was just anecdotal:
The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.
God always provides for His Church!

Check this out for more info and examples.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pope Benedict's Prayer Intentions for July

Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of the Vespers mass to celebrate the feast of Saint Peters and Paul in the Saint Paul Outside the Walls basilica in Rome June 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Tony Gentile  (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION)


Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for July is:

"That in every nation of the world the election of officials may be carried out with justice, transparency and honesty, respecting the free decisions of citizens".

His mission intention is: "That Christians may strive to offer everywhere, but especially in great urban centres, an effective contribution to the promotion of education, justice, solidarity and peace".