Monday, August 31, 2009

Pope, Sant’Egidio Ready Interreligious Summit

John Paul II’s “Spirit of Assisi” Continues

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 31, 2009 ( Members of the Sant’Egidio Community planning an interreligious meeting in Auschwitz in the “spirit of Assisi” met with Benedict XVI today to discuss plans.

The Sept. 6-8 meeting in Krakow and Auschwitz is a continuation of the first interreligious and intercultural meeting called in 1986 in Assisi by Pope John Paul II.

The event, encouraged by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, is titled “The Spirit of Assisi in Krakow” and will particularly focus on the topic of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

Among the participants will be the chief rabbi of Israel, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the president of the Council of European Churches, and a representative of the Orthodox Church of Russia.

Also invited are the heads of state of Costa Rica, Cyprus, Albania, East Timor, Poland and Uganda.

The program will close with a pilgrimage to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, as a "sign of reconciliation and peace to manifest a radical rejection of violence and war as instruments for the solution of international conflicts,” organizers explained.

In addition to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the Pope also spoke with the meeting organizers about Africa, and particulary Sant’Egidio’s contribution to the fight against AIDS.

Vatican watcher stands by accuracy of report on papal 'reform of the reform'

Pope Benedict XVI

Rome, Italy, Aug 31, 2009 / 10:02 am (CNA).- The Italian Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli wrote this past Saturday on his blog that the recent clarifications by high-ranking Vatican officials do not refute what he stated in a column for the Italian daily Il Giornale on August 22. Tornielli had reported that Pope Benedict XVI is considering various measures to move forward with a liturgical “reform of the reform.”

Both in his column and on his usually well-sourced blog, Tornielli announced on August 22 that the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, led by Cardinal Antonio Canizares, had put forth a series of liturgical reforms—including greater use of Latin in the Mass, the possibility of celebrating the Mass ad orientum at least during the consecration, and a greater emphasis on Communion on the tongue—that were being studied by the Holy Father.

In an apparent response to the report by Tornielli, the vice director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Ciro Benedettini, said on August 24, “No institutional proposals currently exist that refer to a modification of the liturgical books.” Additionally, last Friday, in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone called the reports “imaginary.”

According to Tornielli, the denial by Father Benedettini and the comments by Cardinal Bertone were provoked not by his article but “rather, by the manner in which the story was picked up by various blogs, which claimed the ‘reform of the reform’ and the changes to the Mass in a more traditional sense were imminent.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Families are “fertile ground” for priestly vocations, says the Pope

» 08/30/2009 14:33

Benedict XVI gives Saint Monica as an example, a “model and matron for Christian mothers”, who was able to get her son Augustine to convert and develop his vocation. Family education increases vocations. Pope makes an appeal on the occasion of ‘Save Creation Day’, dedicated this year to air, an element indispensable to life.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – “When husband and wife devote themselves generously to the education of their children, guiding and steering them towards the discovery of God’s loving plan, they prepare the spiritually fertile ground from which vocations for the priesthood and consecrated life spring and mature. This shows how closely tied and mutually enlightening marriage and virginity are, beginning with their joint rootedness in Christ’s nuptial love,” said Benedict XVI during his reflection before today’s Angelus in Castel Gandolfo.

The Pontiff said that in this ‘Year for Priests’ we must pray so that “through the intercession of the Saint Curé d’Ars, Christian families may become small churches, and every vocation and every charism, given by the Holy Spirit, may be welcome and valued.”

In order to highlight the importance of family education in stimulating vocations for the consecrated life, Benedict XVI gave as an example the life of Saint Monica, Saint Augustine’s mother, whose liturgical memories were celebrated in the last few days. Saint Monica is in fact viewed as a “model and matron for Christian mothers.”

“A lot of information about her is provided by her son in his autobiographical book, the Confessions, one of the most read masterpieces of the ages. In it we learn that Saint Augustine drank the name of Jesus with his mother’s milk and that he was educated in the Christian religion by his mother, and that its principles remained with him during years of spiritual and moral disorientation. Monica never stopped praying for him and his conversion, and was rewarded for this when he came back to the faith and was baptised. God answered the prayers of this holy mother, to whom the bishop of Thagaste said: ‘it is impossible that the son of these tears should perish.’ In fact, not only did Saint Augustine convert, but [also] chose to lead a monastic life and, upon his return to Africa, founded a community of monks. In a quiet house in Ostia (Italy), the final spiritual exchanges between him and his mother —who was waiting to return to Africa— were moving and uplifting. For her son Saint Monica had become ‘more than a mother, the source of his Christian faith.’ For years her one wish was to see Augustine convert, and now she could see him even consecrate his life to the service of God. She could thus die a happy woman, which occurred on 27 August 387 AD, at the age of 56, after she asked her children not to worry about her burial, but to remember her, wherever they were, on the altar of the Lord. Saint Augustine used to repeat that his mother had ‘generated him twice’.”

See also from CNA, "Pope Benedict points to St. Monica as example of 'holy parent'."

And from YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

Pope: vocations to the priesthood are matured in the family
August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Avoiding the Crucifix
by Michael Pakaluk

According to tradition St. Thomas Aquinas once asked St. Bonaventure how he had acquired the deep theological wisdom he displayed in his writings. St. Bonaventure pointed to a crucifix and said that he had learned all he knew from contemplating it.

If there are any prayerful Catholics in our pews with St. Bonaventure's talents or dispositions, they are going to be deprived, for it is nearly impossible to find a crucifix in a Catholic Church in the United States. This became quite clear to me when I visited Mexico. The large crucifixes there, suspended over the main altar, set up in side chapels, or even placed at the entrances to churches, so that the faithful can piously kiss the bloodied feet of Christ, are powerfully realistic. They possess a photographic vividness. A friend of mine was deeply affected by one such crucifix in the Church of Santo Domingo in Mexico City: "You can see that they tortured Him," he said.

In our land of comfort and theological shallowness, where death is an unmentionable, we have "Risen Christs." These, of course, are not crucifixes at all. "Crucifix" means "affixed to a cross." The "Risen Christs" float on air in front of crosses. They are not realistic so much as surrealistic. When He was on the cross, Jesus hung, when He was on the ground, he stood. He never floated. What specific event in the life of Jesus does the "Risen Christ" represent? After Jesus rose from the dead, He left the cross behind Him -- He didn't hover about it. The "Risen Christ" is a religious image a Docetist might invent, not calculated to inspire reflection on the "theology of the body." Those who believe in flesh and blood and the resurrection of the body cannot be satisfied with it.

Does anyone know the meaning of the "Risen Christ"? Has anyone explained its significance to you? Probably not. Perhaps you, like me, pretend -- or, rather, hope -- that it is a crucifix. Perhaps you also supply the details in your mind and continue to think of the "Risen Christ" as a kind of polite crucifixion. But what does it represent?

One problem is that what it represents can be said in one sentence: "Christ reigned on the cross." It is an image which aims to state a proposition, and it says no more than that. It appeals to the head, not the heart: no one could possibly be moved to tears of pity by contemplating it. It is a one-dimensional, man-made sign; the crucifix, in contrast, is God's sign, ordained by Him as the image of His love for us. It represents not a proposition but a mystery that a million Bonaventures could not exhaust.

Another problem is that the "Risen Christ" simply cannot express well what it intends to say. The reign of Christ on the cross was in reality a bloody crucifixion. The best way to express that reality would be to hold up a crucifix. For Christ reigned in suffering; it is not that His suffering was one thing and His reign another. The "Risen Christ" suggests wrongly that, while the body of Christ was suffering, the soul of Christ was confidently triumphant. We would do better to apply here a saying of Wittgenstein: The best image of the human soul is the human body. That applies to Christ on the cross above all.

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14). Jesus was referring to the time when God punished the Israelites with a plague of serpents. To heal them, God instructed Moses to put a bronze serpent on a staff and set it up among the people so that "everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8). It would have been foolish, of course, for Moses to depart from God's instructions and make a symbol more to his liking; how much more foolish, then, are we for tinkering with that image which the serpent on the staff merely foreshadowed.

There is no point at all in trying to pretty up a crucifixion. Take death by electrocution to be a modern analogue: It would be absurd to hang electric chairs in our churches, but have happy and serene figures sitting in them. The cross was an instrument of torture. If we are scandalized by that, what keeps us from pursuing the logic of Jehovah's Witnesses, who say that to venerate the Cross is as perverse as venerating the murder weapon that killed a dear relative? Do we have secret sympathy with that point of view because we imagine that the Cross was a mistake or an accident?

Perhaps having supposed that the elimination of suffering is the aim of life and of morality, we are confused by the suggestion that Christ desires to suffer, that His purpose in life was to die for us. That Jesus loves us is a consoling thought, but that He loves us that much disturbs as well as consoles. A God Who gives that much might in fact ask that much. Catholicism without crucifixes is so much tamer.

68 Protestant Leaders Applaud Encyclical

Call on All Christians to Respond to "Caritas in Veritate"

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 28, 2009 ( Benedict XVI's latest encyclical was lauded by 68 Evangelical Protestant community leaders from the United States, Canada, England, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

In a message released last month, titled "Doing the Truth in Love," a group of university leaders and professors, press editors and presidents of various institutions signed a message to "applaud" the Pope's encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate."

The message called on Christians everywhere to "read, wrestle with, and respond to 'Caritas in Veritate' and its identification of the twin call of love and truth upon our lives as citizens, entrepreneurs, workers and, most fundamentally, as followers of Christ."

It commended the way in which the encyclical "considers economic development in terms of the true trajectory for human flourishing."

The evangelicals echoed the call for "a new vision of development that recognizes the dignity of human life in its fullness, and that includes a concern for life from conception to natural death, for religious liberty, for the alleviation of poverty, and for the care of creation."

They underlined the document's analysis of global affairs that "rejects the oversimplifying polarization of free market and active government solutions."

"Economic institutions," they added, "including markets themselves, must be marked by internal relations of solidarity and trust."

Pope City; The Woes of Rome

Benedict XVI to Visit Home of Papal Conclave

By Edward Pentin

ROME, AUG. 27, 2009 ( Next Sunday, Benedict XVI will travel to Viterbo, otherwise known the "City of Popes," about 60 miles north of Rome.

The city has a fascinating history and boasts a wealth of Etruscan and Roman archaeological finds. It also has a magnificent -- if not a little bizarre -- festival in honor of its patron saint, but more on that later.

Primarily, Viterbo is a medieval city and perhaps best known for being the birthplace of the papal conclave. Five pontiffs were elected in the city between 1261 and 1281, but it was the election of Pope Gregory X, which is arguably the most interesting. His accession to the papal throne in 1271 took 33 months owing to a protracted dispute over the Kingdom of Sicily. The College of Cardinals was split between which ruler of the kingdom the Pope should support. In the end they chose Gregory X (Tebaldo Visconti) as he was considered to be reasonably neutral in the dispute.

Visconti, then taking part in a crusade, wasn't even a priest when he was chosen, but came to Viterbo six months after his election and ordained a month later. He soon made it a priority to improve the process of papal elections and so, in 1274, published the decree "Ubi periculum" (Where there is danger). The decree consisted of a series of strict rules aimed at speeding up papal elections. These included stipulations (with certain provisos) that the election should take place in the city where the pontiff had died, that all cardinals were to live in common in one room, and that they were to be completely locked in with no one else allowed to enter (hence the name conclave, meaning "under lock and key).

A further rule was that if, after three days, there had been no election, the cardinals were allowed only one dish at lunch and supper. After five days, they were only allowed bread, wine and water until they decided on a new Pope. The new system was quickly put to work and appeared to be effective: Pope Gregory died suddenly in Arezzo in 1276 and his successor, Pope Innocent V (Cardinal Pierre of Tarentaise), was elected in the relatively short time of just three weeks. Gregory X's decree, however, didn't always shorten the election process, and was even temporarily rescinded shortly afterward by Pope John XXI.

Benedict XVI, no doubt well-versed in the city's history, will pay a visit to Viterbo's Conclave Hall and the Palace of the Popes soon after he arrives by helicopter Sept. 6. He will then celebrate Mass in the city and recite the Angelus before praying at two Marian shrines.

Friday, August 28, 2009

War and remembrance: Vatican highlights Pope Pius XII's peace efforts

German troops march through Warsaw, Poland, in September 1939. The invasion marked the start of World War II. (CNS photo/National Archives)

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like much of Europe and the world, the Vatican was marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II with an act of remembrance.

In the Vatican's case, though, the remembering has focused largely on the dramatic and unheeded warnings issued by Pope Pius XII to world leaders in the weeks and days leading up to the war's outbreak.

The late pope's sense of alarm came through loud and clear in the radio message he delivered Aug. 24, 1939, as German troops were massing on the Polish border. His voice full of urgency, the pontiff told the world's powerful that "empires not founded on justice are not blessed by God."

"Today, when the tension of spirits has reached a level that makes the unleashing of the tremendous whirlwind of war appear imminent, in a spirit of paternity we make a new and heartfelt appeal to governments and peoples," the pope said.

"To governments so that, laying aside accusations, threats and the reasons for reciprocal mistrust, they try to resolve present differences through the only suitable means, that is, sincere joint agreements; and to peoples so that in calm and serenity, and without unbecoming agitation, they will encourage efforts for peace on the part of their leaders," he said.

The pope added, "Along with us, the whole of humanity hopes for justice, bread and freedom, not the iron that kills and destroys."

Parts of the audio recording were replayed in late August on Vatican Radio, which called the message "a milestone in the church's service to peace." Likewise, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, printed the text of this and other papal warnings against war, depicting Pope Pius as a prophetic figure who was ignored by those in power.

A week after the pope issued his appeal, German troops invaded Poland, setting off six years of unprecedented warfare. When it was over, an estimated 60 million people -- most of them civilians, including more than 5 million European Jews -- were dead, cities lay in ruins and millions were homeless or displaced.

See also from Zenit, "John Paul II: WWII Was a "Hour of Darkness"."

Pope has no plans to reverse Vatican II reforms, says Cardinal Bertone

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2009 / 10:06 am (CNA).- The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said this week that the reports of supposed plans to roll back changes to the Church’s liturgy that began with the Second Vatican Council “are pure fabrication.”

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal was asked about the “reservations” or “fears” of some who think the Holy Father is going “against” Vatican II, when the reality is actually the opposite.

In order to understand Benedict XVI’s manner of governing the Church, Cardinal Bertone explained, one has to consider his own personal history as a protagonist in the conciliar and post-conciliar Church. Other items to note are: his inaugural speech as Pope, his speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005 and the changes he has personally called for, enacted and patiently explained.

Cardinal Bertone noted several key points of the Council that the Pope has constantly promoted, including fostering “a more understanding relationship with the Orthodox and Eastern Churches” and entering into dialogue with Judaism and Islam. These efforts, the cardinal said, have been met with responses unseen up to now.

After noting the positive relationship the Pope has with the bishops, Cardinal Bertone said that when it comes to the reform of the Church, “Benedict XVI has called us back to the source of the Word of God, to the evangelical law and the heart of the Church’s life: Jesus, who we know, love, adore and imitate.”

The ‘one issue’ issue

Catholic News
Life Truths - 2009
Friday, 28 August 2009 13:22

“Life is a broad-based issue.” So said the Archbishop in a recent news item, which was why this column was called “Life Truths” from the beginning. Another term often used is: “‘pro-life’ is not ‘one-issue’” when referring to the issue of abortion, which comes across as negative to the emphasis on abortion.

Though it is true the Church is not “one issue” - obviously, it is concerned with every issue to do with God, man and creation! - we need to be aware of what is the most universal and deadly issue that affects humanity at any moment in history; and for this moment in history, that issue is abortion as part of the Culture of Death.

Consider these ghastly facts. Poverty is a serious humanitarian problem. According to UNICEF, an estimated 25,000 children die worldwide each day due to poverty. An estimated 145,000 die each day worldwide from abortions (USA Today 8/8/96), more than five times the number. Many of the former die from governmental neglect and corruption. All the latter die due to someone’s deliberate choice to put a new human being to death (most women who have had an abortion did not want to do it but felt pressured and unsupported by significant others).

The terrible problem is that much of the Western world has rejected the Church, established by God to reveal Truth (Jesus Christ) to the world. Its teachings are ridiculed or violently attacked because they call us away from sin and selfishness to righteousness and love.

The West has adopted a worldview that there is no absolute truth, so each individual is free to pick the “truth” that suits him or her. Join this to the “absolutisation of the self” (Pope Benedict XVI) and seeing objects as more important that people and we have our present Western societies, many of which are passing laws legalising abortion, contraception, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, embryonic experimentation and teaching in government schools graphic sex to children as young as ten years old.

Euthanasia is gaining ground with the severe reduction of young people due to abortion. Pension plans are not being replenished adequately because of fewer workers. The cost of support for the elderly is rising. In Holland, over 10,000 old people die from “mercy killing” each year (Brian Clowes, PhD, The Facts of Life). ABC News recently reported that the Oregon Health Plan refused to cover cancer drugs that cost US$4,000 per a month for Barbara Wagner, a 64 year-old terminally ill patient with lung cancer. Instead they offered to give her a one-time prescription for lethal drugs to end her life, which would cost the state health provider only US$50.

Vatican approves change to US catechism on covenant with Jews

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 28, 2009

The Vatican has granted its approval to a change proposed by the US bishops to the text of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

The original 2004 text stated that “the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them,” leading some to believe that the text taught that only Gentiles, and not Jews, are called to the new covenant. The revised text, approved by the bishops at their June 2008 meeting, quotes St. Paul: “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his Word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ’ (Romans 9:4-5; cf. CCC, no 839).”

A press release issued by the bishops’ conference notes that “the clarification is not a change in the Church’s teaching. The clarification reflects the teaching of the Church that all previous covenants that God made with the Jewish people are fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the new covenant established through his sacrificial death on the cross. Catholics believe that the Jewish people continue to live within the truth of the covenant God made with Abraham, and that God continues to be faithful to them.”

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

US Bishops get Vatican ‘Recognitio’ for Change in Adult Catechism (USCCB)

Bishops vote to revise U.S. catechism on Jewish covenant with God (CNS, 2008)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Religious freedom, an instrument for progress and stability

» 08/27/2009 11:39

by Bernardo Cervellera

Attacks on religious freedom and violence against Christians embrace nearly all Asian countries. Western governments prefer to criticize some of the violations - such as those committed by Muslims - but are silent on the attacks against Christians in Vietnam or China. A preview of the August-September editorial from AsiaNews monthly magazine.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Late August marked one year since the anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa led by Hindu fundamentalists left hundreds dead and created tens of thousands of refugees. Commemorating the anniversary of that violence, the Church in India launched moments of prayer, vigils and cultural encounters in defence of the freedom of Christians and to urge India to return to being the multi-religious and multi-cultural nation it once was.

Yet the violence is far from over: not long ago we reported the sad news of the death of Fr James Mukalel, a priest from Karnataka, who was killed and stripped naked while returning from celebrating Mass. And we have documented the deadly episode in Gojra (Punjiab, Pakistan), where an angry mob of over 3 thousand Muslims attacked a Christian area of the village. At least 8 people - including 4 women and a child of 7 years - were burned alive and 20 others were injured. More than 50 Christian homes were burned and destroyed and thousands of faithful forced to flee to escape summary executions at the hands of young extremists incited by political parties and mullahs. Meanwhile, still in Pakistan, in the districts of North-West Frontier Province (near Afghanistan) the violence of the Taliban and the imposition of Sharia have led to the forced exodus of non-Muslim minorities, Christians included.

If we look at all of Asia, we see that this immense continent is among the most affected by the lack of religious freedom and the first victims are often Christians.

Scientist: Pope Was Right About AIDS

Says Abstinence, Fidelity More Effective than Condoms

RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 27, 2009 ( The director of Harvard's AIDS Prevention Research Project is affirming that Benedict XVI's position was right in the debate on AIDS and condoms.

Edward Green stated this in an address at the 30th annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini, sponsored by the lay movement, Communion and Liberation.

Green, an expert on AIDS prevention, said that "as a scientist he was amazed to see the closeness between what the Pope said last March in Cameroon and the results of the most recent scientific discoveries."

He affirmed: "The condom does not prevent AIDS. Only responsible sexual behavior can address the pandemic."

Green continued, "When Benedict XVI said that different sexual behavior should be adopted in Africa, because to put trust in condoms does not serve to fight against AIDS, the international press was scandalized."

The Pope made this statement in a meeting with journalists en route to Africa last March.

The scientist affirmed that the Holy Father spoke the truth. He noted, "The condom can work for particular individuals, but it will not serve to address the situation of a continent."

Pope links atheism, environmental destruction, urges world leaders to act

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 27, 2009

In his Wednesday general audience, Pope Benedict, linking atheism and secularism with environmental destruction, summarized his new encyclical’s teaching on man’s duties towards the environment:

Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where his existence is denied? If the human creature's relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the "final authority," and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible. Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man's responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner. Man is called to exercise responsible government to protect it, to obtain benefits and cultivate it, finding the necessary resources for a dignified existence for all. With the help of nature itself and with the commitment of its own work and creativity, humanity is able to assume the grave duty to hand over to the new generations an earth which, in turn, the latter will be able to inhabit worthily and cultivate further.

The Pontiff urged world leaders “to give the appropriate indications to their own citizens to address in an effective manner the ways of utilizing the environment that turn out to be harmful. The economic and social costs stemming from the use of shared environmental resources, recognized in a transparent way, must be assumed by those who use them, and not by other populations or by future generations.”

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

L’Udienza Generale (Holy See)

Pope Benedict Calls the World to Assume Responsibility for Environment (Vatican Radio)

On Development That Respects the Environment (Zenit)

Enyclical Caritas in Veritate (Chapter 4)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Catholics Should Care about their Lutheran and Anglican Brethren

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

This IS a 'Catholic' issue because part of being a Catholic is having a concern for all Christians.

Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: 'That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me.' The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) – I recently wrote an article entitled “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Succumbs to Heresy” because it involved significant news. I also did so because I am a Catholic. As a Catholic, I believe I should be concerned about other Christians who are struggling within the communities which descended from the Protestant Reformation. Though the article was well received, there were some disapproving comments.

They ranged from the reader who wondered why such an article was “even published on a Catholic Web Site”, to others which used the term “schismatic” in reference to all Protestant Christians. Some objected to my use of the term, "orthodox' to distinguish those Lutherans who adhered to what C.S. Lewis would have called "Mere Christianity" by accepting the fundamentals of the Christian faith and those who have succumbed to heresy. Others wanted to bring up the obvious, that these communities erred in their inital division with the Catholic Church. I agree, after all, I am a Catholic by choice. That was not the point of the article. Rather, it was the recent sad turn of events. Something similar happened when I reported on the assault on the basics of Christian doctrine within the Anglican/ Episcopal communities.

I begin with words from Pope Benedict XVI from his first Papal message: “Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22: 32). With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty.”

He has placed the commitment to the full communion of the Church at the forefront of his Papacy. This is evident in his love, respect and repeated overtures toward our Orthodox brethren, whom we recognize as a Church and whose priesthood and Sacraments we also recognize. However, this love is also evident in his outreach to the separated Christians of the Reformation communities of the West. On the 4th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, John Paul II, Pope Benedict reminded us of John Paul’s passionate commitment to the full communion of the Church. That teaching is summarized in the Encyclical Letter “May they be One” (Ut Unum Sint).

The letter is rooted in an ecclesiology of communion. John Paul II wrote: “It happens for example that, in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, Christians of one confession no longer consider other Christians as enemies or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. Again, the very expression “separated brethren” tends to be replaced today by expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion — linked to the baptismal character — which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions. Today we speak of "other Christians", "others who have received Baptism", and "Christians of other Communities". The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism refers to the Communities to which these Christians belong as "Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. The broadening of vocabulary is indicative of a significant change in attitudes" There is an increased awareness that we all belong to Christ.”(#42)

Pope: protection of creation, the gift of God, demands that we change our development model

» 08/26/2009 16:18

The protection of nature is connected with the theme of integral human development. When "human ecology" respected the environment is “respected”. The careless use of creation begins where God is marginalized, or even His existence denied.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - Creation, "matter intelligently structured by God", is gifted to all men so they may benefit from its fruits and govern it, sharing its wealth and concerning themselves so that even generations to come may enjoy it. This principle reaffirmed by the Church inspired Benedict XVI’s call to "international leaders" so they " to act jointly respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet (cf. Caritas in veritate, 50) . This requires, he told the 4 thousand people in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo for the general audience, "integral human development for the benefit of generations, present and future, a development inspired by the values of love in truth. For this to happen it is essential to convert the current pattern of global development towards greater and shared accountability for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental emergencies, but also the scandal of hunger and misery”

"The end of August is upon us – he highlighted - which for many means the end of the summer holidays. As you return to your daily tasks, thank God for the precious gift of creation, which you can enjoy and not just during the holiday period! The diverse phenomena of environmental degradation and natural disasters, which unfortunately are often in the news, remind us of the urgency of respect due to nature, of the need to recover and celebrate in everyday life, a proper relationship with the environment. "

"The earth - he continued - is a precious gift of the Creator, who has designed its intrinsic order, thus giving us guidelines to be followed as stewards of His creation. It is from this awareness that the Church considers the issues related to environment and its preservation intimately connected with the theme of integral human development”. Recalling that "the natural environment is given by God for all, and its use involves our personal responsibility to all humanity, especially to the poor and future generations," the Pope underlined "our common responsibility for creation”. "The Church - he continued - is not only committed to promoting the defence of land, air and water, gifted by the Creator to all, but mainly works to protect man against the destruction of himself. Indeed, when ' human ecology 'is respected in society, ecology and the environmental also benefit from it". "Is it not true that the careless use of creation begins where God is marginalized or His very existence denied? If the relationship between the human creature and his Creator should fail - explained the Pope – then matter is reduced to selfish possession, man becomes the 'least important’ as the purpose of existence is reduced to a' breathless race to own as much as possible”.

“Creation is therefore under the responsibility of man, who is called upon to exercise a responsible government to in order to protect it, to enjoy its fruits and to cultivate it in new ways, finding in it the necessary resources for a dignified existence for all. With the help of the same nature and with the commitment of their work and their own ingenuity, humanity is truly capable of fulfilling the grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it (ref. Caritas in veritate, 50). For this to happen, it is essential to the development of 'the alliance between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God' (Message for World Day of Peace 2008, n. 7), recognizing that we all come from God and we are on a journey to Him. How important then that the international community and individual governments know how to give the right signals to its citizens to counter effectively a use of the environment that is harmful to it!"

See also from CNA, "Human progress depends on care for the environment, Pope says."

And from YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

Pope: "The Earth is a precious gift of the Creator"

August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

'In the Womb' is Now on the Net: Amazing 4-D Footage of Growing Baby

By Patrick B. Craine

August 25, 2009 ( - The two-hour National Geographic documentary 'In the Womb' is now available on YouTube in 9 parts. Originally aired in 2005, the documentary used revolutionary techniques in computer imaging and 4-D ultrasounds to present stunning images of the developing embryo, taking viewers through the amazing journey of the unborn baby from conception to birth.

Inside the Womb (1/9)

The video presents a remarkable visual apologetic for the pro-life message that human life begins with fertilization. Showing the continuous development of the unborn child from conception to birth, it shatters all attempts to pinpoint any other time as the beginning of life.

While portraying images of the sperm and egg coming together, the narrator explains, "Once within the egg wall, the sperm's nucleus is drawn toward the egg's. The two cells gradually and gracefully become one.

"This is the moment of conception," he declares, "when an individual's unique set of DNA is created, a human's signature that never existed before, and will never be repeated."

The narrator goes on to explain how all of the characteristics of the human body are laid out in the first weeks of life. "Over the course of the first trimester, or first three months, this single egg will begin to transform itself into a fully-formed baby," he says. "But all the features of the human body, limbs, nerves, organs, muscles will be mapped out in the fragile first weeks."

Through vivid computer-generated images, we are shown how at 4 weeks the black dots that will become the baby's eyes have already formed, as well as the "emerging buds" along her body that will grow into her limbs. By six weeks, the eyes, though still not functional, have become "glassy domes with no eyelids," and by nine weeks the buds have grown into full-fledged limbs.

We see the beginning movements of the fetus at nine weeks, and through 4-D ultrasound imaging, we witness the initial stepping reflex of the little 11-week child. The ultrasound shows the child bouncing around in her mother's womb, "using the walls of the uterus like a trampoline," as the narrator says.

The documentary takes the viewer into the operating room, where a fetoscope is used to perform surgery on a 26-week-old fetus who has developed a hole in his diaphragm. Without the surgery, his intestines will have grown into his lungs by the time he is born, not allowing him to breathe. The doctor puts the fetoscope through an incision in the mother, into the baby's mouth, and down the back of his throat to insert a tiny little inflatable balloon that will allow the lungs to grow properly (see end of video #7) to beginning of video #8).

The documentary's message is self-evident: the child in utero is fully human and her development in her mother's womb is merely one important phase in her continuous growth. Concluding the video with the birth of a newborn baby girl, the narrator explains, "She's gone from egg to embryo to fetus to trillions of cells of newborn baby. Her birth marks the beginning of her journey in the world, but she has already travelled an incredible path during her 9-month odyssey in the womb.

"Protected by her mother, and following her own unique genetic blueprint, she has grown a face, eyes, arms, and legs," he says. "She has a brain and nervous system to control her body. Stomach and intestines to digest food and a heart to pump blood. She has learned to breathe, to hear, to feed, to remember, and to tell her parents when she's hungry, tired, happy, or in pain. All before being born. And now, she is ready to face the world."

Vatican Press Office: No ‘institutional proposals’ for liturgical reform

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 25, 2009

Father Ciro Benedettini, CP, assistant director of the Holy See Press Office, has denied reports that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments presented proposals to Pope Benedict for changes in the Mass that would touch off a liturgical “reform of the reform.” However, his statement leaves room for the possibility that future reforms may be under discussion.

“For the time being there are no institutional proposals for a modification of the liturgical books used at present,” Father Benedettini said. That statement does not directly contradict a report by Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale, who reported that the Congregation for Divine Worship had presented the Pontiff with a list of proposals for further discussion. Some of the suggested mentioned in Tornielli's column-- such as the possible return to celebrating Mass ad orientem or the abolition of Communion in the hand-- would not require any "modification of the liturgical books," since they could be done on the authority of individual pastors, bishops, or episcopal conferences, without requiring Vatican action.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

La Sala Stampa Vaticana su presunte voci di riforma liturgica: non esistono attualmente proposte istituzionali di modifica dei libri in uso (Vatican Radio)

Vatican Denies Rumors of Coming Liturgical Reform (Zenit)

Vatican reportedly weighing liturgical proposals for 'reform of the reform' (CWN, Aug 24)

See also:

From National Catholic Reporter, "Vatican downplays report of planned liturgical reforms"

From CNA, "Vatican denies liturgical reforms being formalized"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rome's St. Paul Basilica Invites Online Guests

ROME, AUG. 24, 2009 ( The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls launched a newly renovated Web site to collect prayers, offer a virtual tour, and further the Apostle's worldwide evangelization effort.

This site, which is offered in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, sprang from the Pauline Jubilee Year that ended June 29.

Online visitors can read news related to the basilica and the tomb of St. Paul, virtually tour the church, make reservations for guided tours of the building, visit the gift store, and watch a video of Benedict XVI during celebrations in the basilica.

They can also write intentions that will be offered up in the prayers of the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls, as well as read the Pope's catechetical texts on the Apostle.

--- --- ---

On the Net:

Web site:

Benedict XVI and Bonaventure

The Pope's Trip to the Saint's Birthplace Is More Significant Than It Seems

By Robert Moynihan

ROME, AUG. 24, 2009 ( Sometimes, there is more to a papal trip than meets the eye.

And that is the case with an upcoming trip of Benedict XVI to the small Italian town of Bagnoreggio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

In two weeks, on Sept. 6, the Pope will go out of Rome to visit Bagnoreggio and Viterbo.

Viterbo, about 65 miles north of Rome, or just an hour by car, is well-known as the place where papal conclaves were born.

Until 1271, the gathering of cardinals for the election was not called a "conclave" ("con" meaning "with" and "clavis" meaning "a key") -- a closed meeting in a place locked "with a key."

After the death of Pope Clement IV in 1268, the cardinals meeting in Viterbo did not elect anyone for almost three years. Finally, the city officials locked all of them in a meeting room and gave them only bread and water to eat. Soon after, they elected Pope Gregory X. He then made it Church law that papal elections would take place in a conclave.

Benedict XVI will travel to Viterbo by helicopter from the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

But on his way home, he will stop in Bagnoreggio.

Why stop in such a little, seemingly unimportant town?

Because St. Bonaventure was born there in 1217.

Still, the Pope does not stop in the birthplace of every important saint. He would not have time to do so. So, why is he taking time to stop in Bonaventure's place of birth?

For the answer, we have to look into the Pope's own past, and there we find something rather interesting.

We find that Bonaventure was one of the two major intellectual influences on Pope Benedict's entire theological formation. (The other influence? St. Augustine.)

In Germany, scholars must write two dissertations. The first, as in the United States, is to receive a doctoral degree (a Ph.D.). The second, called the "Habilitationsschrift," is to qualify for a professorial post.

And the young Joseph Ratzinger, in the mid-1950s, wrote this second, postdoctoral thesis, on ... St. Bonaventure, and his understanding of history.

Bush Quietly Saved a Million African Lives

Catholic Exchange
August 24th, 2009 by Dr. Paul Kengor

What if a president, on his own initiative, under no demands from staff or from supporters or opponents, set out to spend an unprecedented amount of money on AIDS in Africa, literally billions of dollars, at a time when the nation could not afford it, citing his faith as a primary motivation and, ultimately, saved more than a million lives?

Wouldn’t the story be front-page news, especially in top, liberal newspapers? Wouldn’t it lead on CNN, MSNBC, and the “CBS Evening News?” Might statues be erected to the man in the nation’s more “progressive” cities?

What if the president was George W. Bush?

I pose these uncomfortable questions for two reasons: 1) President Bush did precisely that regarding the African AIDS tragedy; and 2) a study claims that Bush’s remarkable action has indeed saved many precious lives.

And as someone who has closely followed Bush’s humanitarian gesture from the outset, I’m not surprised that the former president continues to not receive the accolades he deserves—including even from conservative supporters—for this generous act.

Bush himself realizes the lack of gratitude and media attention. I personally witnessed it recently, on June 17, when I was in attendance for one of Bush’s first post-presidential speeches, in Erie, Pa. There, too, he mentioned the AIDS initiative—even adding that one of his daughters is in Africa today, working on the epidemic—and, there again, it received no press coverage whatsoever.

It all began in January 2003, during the State of the Union. In a completely unexpected announcement, Bush asked Congress for $15 billion for AIDS in Africa—drugs, treatment and prevention.

America soon learned this was not the typical State of the Union throwaway line: To show his seriousness, Bush followed on April 29 with a press conference in the East Room, where he exhorted Congress to “act quickly” on his “emergency plan.”

Accompanied by the secretary of state, he prodded America’s wealthy allies to join this “urgent work,” this “great effort.” He explained that AIDS was a “dignity of life” issue and “tragedy” that was the “responsibility of every nation.” This was a “moral imperative,” with time “not on our side.”

Bush then shocked the press by pointing to an unusual personal motivation, citing the parable of the Good Samaritan: “[T]his cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties,” he told journalists. “When we see this kind of preventable suffering … we must act. When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not, America will not, pass to the other side of the road.”

With amazing quickness, just four weeks later, Bush inked a $15-billion plan and challenged Europe to match the U.S. commitment without delay.

How did the plan work? In April, a major study was released by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine . According to the study, the first to evaluate the outcomes of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bush initiative has cut the death toll from HIV/AIDS by more than 10 percent in targeted African countries from 2003 to 2007.

“It has averted deaths—a lot of deaths,” said Dr. Eran Bendavid, one of the researchers. “It is working. It’s reducing the death toll from HIV. People who are not dying may be able to work and support their families and their local economy.” Co-researcher, Dr. Peter Piot, says PEPFAR “is changing the course of the AIDS epidemic.”

The study—still having received virtually no press attention several months after its release—estimates that the Bush relief plan has saved more than 1 million African lives.

Jesus demands wholehearted commitment, Pope reminds audience

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 24, 2009

"Jesus in fact is not contented by a merely superficial or formal belonging," Pope Benedict XVI told his Sunday audience on August 23; the Lord asks the faithful to make a wholehearted commitment to Him. Commenting on the day's reading from the 6th chapter of St. John's Gospel, the Holy Father remarked that many people who heard Jesus speak found his words too difficult to accept. "Even today, many are shocked by the paradox of the Christian faith," the Pope continued. "Jesus’ teaching seems too 'hard.'" But for those who are ready to make the necessary commitment, "Jesus fills hearts with joy."

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Pope Benedict XVI Encourages Faithful to Authentic Discipleship (Vatican Radio)

Le Parole del Papa alla Recita dell'Angelus (Vatican press office)

Following Jesus means going against the trend, beyond scandal and adaptation, says Pope (AsiaNews)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Faith in Christ still today gives scandal to the world

From YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

August 23, 2009

Following Jesus means going against the trend, beyond scandal and adaptation, says Pope

» 08/23/2009 13:39

Jesus’ “hard” message impels many to reject and abandon it, or to adapt it to the fashions of the times distorting its true meaning. But following the Lord fills one with joy. Benedict XVI jokes about his wrist now free from the plaster, after his fall in Valle d'Aosta. Greetings to the participants of the Meeting of Rimini.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - Following Jesus "fills hearts with joy and the full meaning of existence, but it also brings difficulties and sacrifices because very often it means going against the trend” of modern global mentality. That is how Benedict XVI concluded his reflections on the Sunday Gospel (the final part of the 6th chapter of John), when Jesus, after his speech on the "bread of life come down from heaven" meets great resistance among the Jews and the disciples.

"The fourth Evangelist - explained the pope - relates the reaction of the people and disciples, shocked by the words of the Lord, to the point that many, after having followed him until then, exclaim: ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?' (V. 60). And from that moment on ‘many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him' (v. 66). Jesus, however, does not lessen his claim, indeed, he directly addresses the Twelve saying: 'Will you also go away?' (V. 67).

"This provocative question - continued the pope - is not only addressed to listeners of the time, but to believers and men of every age. Even today, many are 'shocked' by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus’ teaching seems too 'hard', too difficult to accept and put into practice. As a result there are those who reject and abandon Christ; those who attempt to 'adapt' his teachings to the fashions of the times distorting its meaning and value. 'Will you also go away?'. This unsettling provocation resounds in our hearts and awaits a response from each one of us. Jesus in fact is not contented by a merely superficial or formal belonging, an initial and enthusiastic adhesion is not enough for Him; on the contrary, we must take part in 'his thinking and his will' throughout our entire life. Following Jesus "fills hearts with joy and the full meaning of existence, but it also brings difficulties and sacrifices because very often it means going against the trend”.

At Jesus' question ( "Will you also go away?"), only St. Peter replies: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6 , vv. 68-69).

And Benedict XVI concluded: "Dear brothers and sisters, we too can repeat Peter’s response, certainly aware of our human frailty, but confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus. Faith is God's gift to man and is, at the same time, man’s free and total trusting of himself to God; docile faith, listening to the word of the Lord, that lamp for our feet, light for our path (cf. Psalm 119, 105). With confidence if we open our hearts to Christ, if we let ourselves be conquered by him, we too can experience together with the Cure d'Ars, that 'our own happiness on this earth is to love God and know that He loves us'. We ask the Virgin Mary to keep alive in us this faith steeped in love, which has made her, a humble maiden of Nazareth, Mother of God and mother and model for all believers. "

Earlier Benedict XVI had joked with the pilgrims in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo, showing his wrist without plaster, after the fall he had had in Val d'Aosta. "But - he said - I still have to follow the school of patience", perhaps meaning that he must still undergo physiotherapy to restore full dexterity.

After the Marian prayer and before the greetings in different languages, the pope addressed a greeting to the participants in the 30th edition of the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, which opened today in Rimini, organised by the movement Communion and Liberation. Commenting on the title of this edition ( "Knowledge is always an event"), he said: "I wish it [the meeting] is an opportunity to understand that 'Learning is not only a material act, because ... In all knowledge and in every act of love the human soul experiences something “over and above”, which seems very much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised'(Enc. Caritas in Veritate, n. 77).

See also from CNA, "Accept challenge of Jesus' hard teachings, Pope Benedict urges."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Birther or Deather--which would you rather be?

Today on his blog, Loyal to Liberty, Alan Keyes, foregoing his usual political subjects, presents a thoughtful meditation directed toward fellow believers:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Meditation Especially for Fellow Christians (and those willing to think so.)

Much of my thought and writing in recent days has, not surprisingly, focused on the events and issues involved in the current battle over the national, socialist takeover of the health care sector being engineered by the Obama faction. Though a discussion of health should focus on how best to strengthen and preserve life, I am struck by the deep preoccupation with killing and death the Obama faction's proposals have forced upon us.

For all his hollow rhetoric of hope and compassion, the inescapable essence of Obama's actions reveals that killing and death are the foundation stones of his political vision. To reduce health care costs he proposes to establish institutions and practices that pressure the elderly and infirm toward self-abnegation and self-harvesting. To advance his political ambition he promotes as rightful action the killing of innocent children in the earliest stages of life. To gratify the demands of the licentious elite that has made him their idol of self-worship, he works to clear the way for those who seek to legitimize an understanding of human sexuality that encourages individuals to turn away from the responsibilities of natural procreation. Thus he extends the shadow of death through self-extinction to the whole human race.

Pope John Paul the Great roused Christians to recognize and reject the culture of death. Today there can be no doubt that Barack Obama is its great High Priest. The platform of the Presidency offers him unparalleled opportunities to promote it, and to draw the American people ever deeper into complicity with its rejection of the Creator's authority and intention. Ironically, those who demand an investigation into the inadequate credentials Obama has offered as proof of his Constitutional eligibility to wield the power of the Presidency, have been derided as 'birthers' by detractors who openly or covertly adhere to the cult of death he represents.

Though intended for derision, the term may aptly apply to people like me. After all, we fight to vindicate the right of birth for every child conceived in the mind of the Creator, God. We fight to preserve society's obligation by law to respect the natural family that is the first belonging and birthright of every human being. We fight to defend respect for the understanding of right and justice that requires all legitimate government to secure the unalienable rights inherent in the Creator's conception of our humanity.

Why do the deriders think we should cringe and be ashamed when they call us by an epithet that brings to mind our faithful allegiance to the truths upheld in America's great Declaration of Independence? I would rather be an advocate of life and birth, than a cultist of child murder and self-inflicted death. I would rather be held up for ridicule as a 'birther' than identified with the 'deathers' who idolize Obama at the expense of truth and reason, offering themselves as the vanguard of the future of tyranny and human self-immolation he represents.

The term 'deather' is not original with me, of course. I have seen or heard it elsewhere. But I am more and more taken with the aptness of the term. The specter and promotion of death lurks somewhere in every element of the Obama faction's agenda. I remember in particular the pro-abortion women who were demonstrating at Notre Dame. They sought to drown out the words and witness of people gathered to decry the homage being done to the idol of death by university administrators falsely identifying themselves with faith in the Tree of Life that is Jesus Christ. "Without abortion rights, women cannot be free," they chanted. This mantra truly epitomizes the principle Obama means to substitute for the self-evident truths on which America bases its understanding of freedom, beginning with the unalienable right to life. It clearly outlines the real import of the choice Americans face.

Which are we: a people that defines its freedom in terms of our obligation to respect the right to life, and the natural responsibility for procreation and self-government it entails; or a people that defines its freedom in terms of the right to murder our offspring, thereby rejecting the natural obligation of parents to love and care for their children and of children to respect and care for the lives of their aging parents?

Are we 'birthers' looking before and after to the origin of life in God's goodwill; or 'deathers' who assault the living image of God that represents His goodwill toward our humanity, so as to revel momentarily in the false similitude with God that appears seductively (to us as to Eve, the mother of us all) in the choice to transgress its provisions?

Deathers shall be delivered ( first in the throes of seeming pleasure and proud self-approval, but then forever grieving) from the body of this death to the inconsolable similitude of dying without end. Who cares to join them, while the Tree of Life still beckons, while Christ is standing nigh? I pray God it is not you or I.

Reflection: Becoming Prayer

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus.

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God.Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated. Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thess. 5:16-19)

St. Paul wrote these words to the early Christians in Greece. They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, and real struggles, beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith in a hostile culture.

He instructed them to “Pray without ceasing”. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did. The older I get, the simpler life gets. That does not mean it is “easy”. I speak of spiritual simplicity, the kind of attitude which gets right to the root of what really matters. I believe that Paul meant what he said to the Christians at Thessalonica and that his words are important to those who bear the name Christian today.We need to pray.

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. God fashioned men and women as the crown of His creation, creating us in “His Image”, for this loving, relational conversation of life with Him. At the heart of understanding what it means to be “in His Image” is to understand the immense gift of human freedom and what has happened to our capacity to choose. Love is never coerced.

Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins or “original sin”. That sin, like all sin since, is at root a misuse of freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency. Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good, was impeded through the fall. Freedom was fractured.

The “Good News” is that through Jesus Christ, the way has been opened for an even fuller communion with God, one that is restored through His Incarnation, Saving life, Death and Resurrection. In Jesus Christ we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. This “making a place” is the essence of Christian prayer. It is not about doing, but about being.

An excellent reflection on one of my favorite scripture passages. As a further meditation on the same passage, I recommend highly the Christian spiritual classic, "The Way of a Pilgrim." It concerns a pilgrim's quest--that of the author, an anonymous Russian, to fulfill the scriptural mandate of 1 Thess. 5:17 (to pray with ceasing)--with the "Jesus Prayer." I've read several translations and for me the best translation of the classic is, The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Paperback) translated by Helen Bacovcin, with a forward by Walter J. Ciszek.

Cardinal Bertone on "Caritas in Veritate"

"It Is Also Possible to Do Business by Pursuing Aims That Serve Society"

ROME, AUG. 22, 2009 ( Here is a translation of a speech Benedict XVI's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, gave to the Italian Senate last month. The July 28 discourse was a reflection on the Pope's third encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate."

* * *

Benedict XVI begins his Encyclical with a deep, comprehensive introduction in which he reflects on and analyzes the words of the title which closely link "caritas" and "veritas": love and truth. This is not only a sort of "explicatio terminorum", an initial explanation which seeks to point out the fundamental principles and perspectives of his entire teaching. Indeed, like the musical theme of a symphony, the theme of truth and charity then recurs throughout the document precisely because, as the Pope writes, in it is "the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity" [1].

But, we ask ourselves, which truth and which love are meant? There is no doubt that today these very concepts give rise to suspicion especially the term "truth" or are the object of misunderstanding, and this is especially the case with the term "love". This is why it is important to make clear which truth and which love the Pope is addressing in his new Encyclical. The Holy Father explains that these two fundamental realities are neither extrinsic to man nor even imposed upon him in the name of any kind of ideological vision; rather, they are deeply rooted within the person. Indeed, "love and truth", the Pope says, "are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person" [2], the person who, according to Sacred Scripture, has been created precisely "as an image of the Creator", in other words of the "God of the Bible, who is both "Agápe" and "Lógos": Charity and Truth, Love and Word [3].

This reality is testified to us not only by biblical Revelation but can be grasped by every person of good will who uses right reason in reflecting on himself [4]. In this regard, several passages of an important and meaningful Document that came out just before Caritas in veritate seem to illustrate this view clearly. The International Theological Commission in recent months has given us a text entitled "The Search for Universal Ethics: A New Look at Natural Law". It addresses topics of great importance which I wish to point out and to recommend especially in this context of the Senate, that is, an institution whose main function is legislative. Indeed, as the Holy Father said to the United Nations Assembly in New York during his Visit last year to their headquarters [5], sometimes called the "glass palace", speaking about the foundation of human rights: These rights "are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks". These reflections do not apply solely to human rights. They apply to every intervention by the legitimate authority called to regulate the life of the community in accordance with true justice by means of legislation that is not the result of a mere conventional agreement but aims at the authentic good of the person and of society and hence refers to this natural law.

So much for conscience clauses for Catholics in medicine

American Papist
Saturday, August 22, 2009

President Obama has promised Catholics, on multiple occasions, a "robust conscience clause."

The fact that we need one is evident when you read about examples like this one, where a pro-life nurse forced to participate in an abortion was told she has no legal rights.

Now read the 1,000+ pages of the health care bill in Congress that President Obama supports, and find me a "robust conscience clause."

I'll save you the days of work - it isn't in there. So much for that.

I'm in agreement with American Papist. And dare I say that President Obama is being, "more than a little disingenuous" concerning not only the existence of a conscience clause, but all life issues in the proposed healthcare bill?

To read the Obama Healthcare proposal, and with the added ability to search its text, see "The Obama Healthcare Proposal: Read the Bill (Now Searchable)."

See also:

From Catholic Culture-News Briefs, "Obama denies that health plan would cover abortion; pro-life forces rebut him"

And from LifeSiteNews, "Bowling for Death Panels: Euthanasia Group Behind "End-of-Life" Counseling," "Obama Calls Abortion Funding in Healthcare Legislation a 'Fabrication'," and "Obama: 'We are God's Partners in Matters of Life and Death'."

US bishops' web site introduces new Mass translation

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 21, 2009

The US bishops' conference has released a new web site designed to introduce the faithful to a new English translation of the Mass. After years of work, the translation will be introduced after it receives final clearance from the Holy See.

The revised translation adheres to new Vatican norms requiring greater adherence to the original Latin text of the Roman Missal. Bishop Arthur Serratelli, who chairs the US bishops' liturgical committee, describes the new texts as "understandable, dignified and accurate."

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

U.S. bishops launch website on new Mass translation (CNA)

New Words: A Deeper Meaning, but the Same Mass (USCCB)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pope has cast removed from wrist, rehabilitation to begin

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 21, 2009 / 10:20 am (CNA).- The Holy See’s Press Office has issued a statement today announcing that the Pope Benedict XVI’s personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, has removed the cast from the Holy Father’s right wrist.

After wearing the cast for just over a month, Dr. Polisca removed the cast at Castel Gandolfo and took an X-ray of the Pope's wrist, which he fractured on July 16 while on vacation in northern Italy.

The X-ray showed that the fractured to the Pope’s right wrist is healing as expected. “The final results can be defined as optimum,” the doctor said. Pope Benedict will now begin physical therapy to recover the full use of his right hand, Dr. Polisca explained.

See also from Catholic Culture-News Briefs:

Pope's cast removed; wrist healing well
August 21, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI is recovering well from a fractured wrist that he suffered a month ago, the Vatican has announced. On August 21, doctors removed a cast from the Pope’s wrist, and after taking a new X-ray, reported that the healing “can be described as excellent.” The Pope will be given physical therapy to strengthen the wrist, and is expected quickly to regain full mobility of his arm and hand.

The Pope broke his wrist on July 17 when he tripped and fell in the dark in the unfamiliar surroundings of his bedroom in the chalet where he was spending his vacation in the Italian Alps.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Dichiarazione del medico personale del Santo Padre (Vatican press office)

Doctors remove cast from pope's broken wrist (AP)

And also from the Boston Herald, "Doctors remove cast from pope's broken wrist"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fireside Catholic Publishing Giving Away Free Trip to Rome

Press Release
Source: Fireside Catholic Publishing
On Thursday August 20, 2009, 6:04 pm EDT

WICHITA, Kan., Aug. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- In honor of Pope Benedict XVI's declaration of the "Year of the Priest," Fireside Catholic Publishing will be giving away a free trip to Rome for a U.S. priest and his guest.

The grand prize is two round-trip airline tickets to Rome, two hotel rooms in the Rome Metropolitan area for seven nights and daily meal allowance. The winner will be announced no later than April 8, 2010.

"The importance of priests in the spiritual growth of Catholics worldwide, and the continued strength of the Church as a whole cannot be understated," said Ross DeVore, President of Fireside Catholic Publishing. "This is our small way of saying thank you for all that you do for so many."

Any priest who purchases a Fireside Catholic Publishing product between Sept. 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010 is automatically entered into the drawing. Priests can also enter without making a purchase by mailing a 3" x 5" index card with their name, address, phone and signature to Fireside Catholic Publishing before the March 31, 2010 deadline.

Eligibility is restricted to Catholic priests at a parish or diocese in the United States of America, and only one entry per priest is allowed.

More information and a list of official rules can be found at

Fireside Catholic Publishing has been a leader in providing high quality Catholic Bibles to families, schools and parishes since 1970.

Pope's former students to meet for ecumenical discussion on mission

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's former doctoral students will meet again in late August to discuss Christian mission from an ecumenical perspective, the Vatican press office said.

The Aug. 28-31 meeting will be held at the Focolare Movement's conference center in Castel Gandolfo, the town where the papal summer villa is located. Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass and have breakfast with the group the final day.

Each year the scholars choose a topic to discuss in depth and they invite theologians to make presentations at the closed-door meetings.

One of this year's speakers will be the Rev. Peter Beyerhaus, formerly a Lutheran minister and now retired professor of missiology and ecumenical theology at the University of Tubingen, Germany. The program calls for him to speak about missionary work, "its justification and its form today."

We must encourage prayer and sacrifice for our priests

Bishop Vasa gently urges us to pray for our priests in this heartfelt column.

Catholic Sentinel
August 20, 2009

By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — Last week’s liturgical observance of the memorial of St. John Vianney served as a wonderful reminder that this has been designated as a Year for Priests and offers the opportunity to once again encourage prayer and even sacrifice for our priests. It is no secret that priests are quite imperfect and often even seriously flawed. Some may manifest character flaws or even personality disorders. They are, after all, taken from among men for the service of God and so bring to the priesthood many of the same flaws and faults present in the general population. “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.” (Hebrews 5:1-3)

Despite these shortcomings, however, I have every reason to believe that practically every priest, with very few exceptions, possesses a strong desire to be in proper relationship to God and offer himself as a living sacrifice for the sake of the people entrusted to his pastoral care. Undoubtedly, it is not always clear that this is the case because this strong desire often loses something in its translation to action. It can often happen as well that the faithful, failing to appreciate the depth of true love that their pastors are manifesting for them, focus much more on the flawed presentation than the love that drives it. It comes as no surprise to any pastor that St. John Vianney was severely abused and derided because he called his people to chastity when debauchery was the norm, to sobriety when drunkenness was rampant, to holiness when secularity was much more popular. Because he loved, however, he did not cease to challenge sinfulness and call his people to repentance. He did this at great personal cost because of his determined love for souls. I strongly suspect that if St. John Vianney himself were in many of our American parishes there would be an abundance of letters from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish. This in no way implies that letters about priests to chanceries all across this country are not sometimes warranted and it in no way implies that our priests are comparable to St. John Vianney. It does imply that most of us do not respond well when the sinfulness of our own lives is challenged.

The old adage about the need to “hate the sin but love the sinner” makes perfect pastoral sense but the situation is often made very difficult when the sinner has such a solid affection for and attachment to and even defense of the sin that any attack on the sin is deemed an unjust and indefensible attack on the sinner. In some ways the adage has been revised for American sensibilities so that its present rendering might go something like: “Love the sinner, condone the sin.” It can also happen that what is determined to be sinful by the pastor, in accord with Church teaching, is not seen as sinful at all by a significant number of the faithful due to their ill formed consciences or due to a false understanding of conscience. This makes preaching about sin difficult. It is all the more difficult when there is a sense that such preaching is likely to fall on deaf ears. It is not at all uncommon to encounter members of the faithful whose personal conviction is that something that is really sinful, and in many cases seriously sinful, is not sinful at all for them. This is a clear symptom of a seriously defective formation and understanding of conscience. As the American view about the apparent acceptability of artificial contraception, homosexual union and abortion gets ever more firmly entrenched the Catholic conscience is gradually eroded and thus fails to recognize any of these serious evils as sinful.

There is need for prayer for our priests and the opening of the Year for Priests, with a variety of prayer hours was extremely well received and attended. The priests have commented how strongly they felt the support and prayer of their parishioners. This is very significant. We all want our priests to be holy, prayerful, devoted, pious, available, good administrators, good preachers, personable, affable, patient, accommodating, zealous, on time, to be all we want them to be and we want them to be all of these things all of the time. We sometimes forget that a man with great administrative skills may not be a good preacher. A man who is very pious may be more aloof and thus less personable. A man who is entirely affable may be, shall we say, administratively challenged. A man who is too available may frequently be late. A man who excels in patience may seem to lack zeal. It is good and necessary to hold very high standards for our priests and the Year for Priests affords us an opportunity to pray and work to help them achieve those high standards. The fact that priests have commented to me that they were positively affected by the evening of prayer is a sign of just how much we need prayers and encouragement.

Pope Benedict notes link between Council of Trent, Pope John Paul in reforming seminaries

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 20, 2009

In his fifth Wednesday general audience devoted to the priesthood, Pope Benedict reflected on St. John Eudes, the French apostle of devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary who, amid the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War, founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary in 1643 to form seminarians. In doing so, the saint helped implement in France the eight-decade-old decrees of the Council of Trent on the establishment of seminaries.

Pope Benedict added that in our own time, Pope John Paul II has issued the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, wherein the late Pontiff “took up and actualized the norms of the Council of Trent. For him, for us, this is a real point of departure for a genuine reform of priestly life and apostolate, and it is also the central point so that the ‘new evangelization’ is not simply an attractive slogan, but rather is translated into reality.”

Pope Benedict concluded the audience “by addressing to all the exhortation of St. John Eudes, who said thus to priests: ‘Give yourselves to Jesus to enter into the immensity of his great Heart, which contains the Heart of his Holy Mother and of all the saints, and to lose yourselves in this abyss of love, of charity, of mercy, of humility, of purity, of patience, of submission, and of holiness.’”

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Udienza Generale, 19 agosto 2009 (Holy See)

Zenit translation

Pope Stresses Need for Solid Priestly Formation (Vatican Radio)

Pope Benedict: Audiences (Holy See)

Pope John Paul: I Will Give You Shepherds (Pastores Dabo Vobis)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Famed director Zeffirelli: Cardinals should have chosen a more theatrical Pope

Catholic Culture-News Briefs
August 19, 2009

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, 86-year-old film director Franco Zeffirelli-- perhaps best remembered for his 1977 Jesus of Nazareth-- called Pope Benedict a “wonderful man” theologically but said that the cardinals made an “image error” when they elected him. “Catholic is another thing,” he said. “It’s open, it’s theatrical, it’s flashy,” adding, “when you have to deal with the Vatican-- St. Peter’s, ‘The Last Judgment’ of Michelangelo-- you have to be larger than life, you can’t be a professor from north Germany.”

As the New York Times article writer observed, the Pontiff hails from southern Germany.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Maestro Still Runs the Show, Grandly (New York Times)

Jesus of Nazareth (miniseries) (Wikipedia)

Vatican Offers Night at the Museum Sequel

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 19, 2009 ( The Vatican Museums will open their doors after dark on Fridays during September and October, after enormous success in a similar July 24 night event.

The museum Web site announced Tuesday that the public will be admitted to view various works of art by twilight, culminating in the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican Museums will remain open until 11 p.m., though the last visitors will be admitted at 9:30 p.m.

This nocturnal schedule offers the opportunity of seeing the art while enjoying an "unusual atmosphere and a special light," explained Antonio Paolucci, the director of the museums.

He added that it is also a way of enticing people to give up a night of television.

Tickets must be purchased in advance, and can be obtained online.

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On the Net:

To buy a ticket: