The new Holy Land Catholic Communications Centre based in Jerusalem hopes to provide information in five languages - English, Italian, French, Arabic, and Hebrew, according to FIDES.
The agency will provide news and information on the initiatives, life, and activity of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. It will also serve as a centre for information, coordination and networking among the churches, parishes, and pastoral centers of the various Catholic rites that exist there.
The agency aims to contribute to the spread of reliable reports on the situations in the Holy Land, in response to the Church’s essential mission of announcing the truth.
For instance, I did not know that most Catholic churches in Palestine and Jordan are keeping the same liturgical calendar as the eastern Churches and celebrated Easter last Sunday! From the website, dated April 25:
Most Catholic parishes in Palestine and Jordan are celebrating the Holy Week. The date coincides with that of the Oriental Churches that follow the Julian calendar. The choice to celebrate together with the Oriental Churches has been made to underline the importance of the journey towards full communion.
Alas, I am celebrating by one last big push to get a big project out. There is no rest for the wicked!
But for those of you who have been good - there is a treat over at the invaluable Disputations where Tom has been carefully, and in the best Dominican manner, discussing the challenging content of one of St. Catherine's letters to a seeking layman.
Of course, when was Catherine not challenging in her letters?
When reading Raymond de Capua's biography of Catherine, I found myself overwhelmed, thinking " Did that woman ever spend 10 minutes in a normal, boring manner?"
You gotta allow for the hagiographic instinct - especially since Raymond was writing with an eye toward Catherine's eventual canonization.
There may possibly be time for more later. But in the meantime as Tom puts it:
In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary, happy Feast of St. Catherine of Siena!
Here is the Catholic problem that I see when Benedict’s words bounce around my head. Let me see if I can say this concisely:
For hundreds and hundreds of years, the Catholic “way” of being in this world has been rooted in some assumptions. For my purposes, I’ll highlight this one: The Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ. This is obvious to anyone with eyes to see and the relationship between one’s individual faith, Christ, and the Church is clear and intuitive.
Sherry's note: Of course, it isn't obvious anymore - not to the majority of those born and raised within the Church apparently (or the majority of our baptized members would not be awol) and certainly not for those outside and soaked in our post-modern culture. (who are nevertheless culturally disposed to seek a personal faith for themselves if we can be bothered to propose the Gospel to them explicitly and meaningfully).
"You take that, and mix it with 1500 years of being able to maintain this assumption without any competing viewpoints, and you have a formula for being ill-equipped to make those connections in the contemporary world."
Absolutely. The nice thing is that Amy can say this sort of thing without be accused of being a covert Protestant. :-}
And as I see it, this is the core of what Benedict is trying to help us all do. Focus on Christ, take an honest look at the world around us, the questions people ask and the reasons people don’t believe and then be in this world, as the Body of Christ, in a way that makes it clear that Jesus Christ came to answers those questions, quench that thirst, give eternal life, and that the Church is where he is found.
"In other words…the “new evangelization” called for by these last two Popes is not about reaffirming Catholic identity in some abstract or institutional sense. It’s about confidently believing that Jesus Christ is the answer and then just as confidently helping people see and experience Christ in the Church: in its spiritual tradition, sacramental life, teachings, artistic heritage and sacrificial service to the poor, sick and dying.
In other words: Cultural Catholicism, RIP.
What will rise in its stead?"
Exactly. If we are to avoid "reaffirming Catholic identity in some abstract or institutional sense" everything we do, all our institutions and traditions and the Church herself must be seen and proposed in light of their beginning and ending in Christ.
I'm having problems with blogger. I want to post some You tube videos for St. Catherine's feast day tomorrow but I no longer can simply copy the embed HTML and paste it. Anybody know how to do with the new blogger tools?
I wanted to make more public some reflections on state of life callings that would have been hidden in a thread on Sherry's post last Thursday on priestless parishes. One poster quoted Pope Benedict's comment on the importance of prayer and vocations:
"Prayer is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God's call. So I think learning prayer, being prayerful people, is an essential point for the living church. Programs, plans, projects are necessary and have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples."
Another poster responded by saying,
"In the 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, John Paul revived the language of higher and lower vocations....Thus the consecrated life is objectively a higher expression of a universal vocation."
Marriage, celibacy and virginity all point to self-giving in Catholic theology, as every Christian, in imitation of Jesus, is meant to give themselves first completely to God, and then to other people. In his book, "The Holy Longing," Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, describes marriage as an exploration of the depths of human love, and celibacy/virginity as an exploration of the breadth of human love. But the common thread of the Christian life is self-giving love.
The idea of celibacy being a preferable condition to marriage is found in St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and reflects his perspective that the present age is quickly passing away and that Christ's return in glory and judgment is imminent. He also refers to celibacy as a gift (in Greek, charisma) from God not given to all.
Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire. 1Cor 7:7-9
If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that. I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away. I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction. 1 Cor 7:28-35
In Paul's mind, marriage could interfere with the relationship with Christ, even though he also sees marriage as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:21-28)
What can be forgotten in the discussion of these states of life is the fundamental call to discipleship and the nature of Christian life as one of continual self-gift. From the moment of our baptism we are directed towards others by virtue of the charisms we are given by God in that sacrament. They are for others, rather than ourselves. They indicate that whatever calling we pursue and whatever state of life, our life is not our own; we are Christ's.
“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.” Rom. 14:7-8
My discomfort with the idea of celibacy being a 'higher' vocation than marriage isn't with the teaching, but with the practice. Certainly married people can be selfish - and the unhappiness of many marriages may well reflect that. But a celibate life is not automatically a sign of greater selflessness. It can be just the opposite. The freedom that I enjoy as a celibate can easily be turned to selfishness, particularly if I begin to take advantage of people who apparently feel sorry for me because, in their words, "I've given so much up." In the past week alone I have been offered several boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts, cash, a loaner bike to ride along with a helmet, bottles of Powerade and cash; a cake, a soda, and several free lunches.
Now, I suppose it's possible that some of this generosity is due to the fact that I'm such a lovable guy. Or, perhaps, I'm much more pathetic than I thought, and naturally elicit waves of pity from others.
But I think it's more likely that we've lost sight of the fundamental and universal call to holiness and discipleship. If we consider marriage - or just good 'ole sex - to be the greatest good, then, yes, I have "given up so much." But the religious life I've embraced is meant to point to the Kingdom of God and heaven, where Mt 22:30 says we live like angels, not given in marriage. My life is meant to point to a greater good even than sex and marriage - discipleship and the eternal union with Jesus that it leads to! In this sense my celibate life can said to be "higher" in that it points to a higher, eternal reality that we can easily forget: married, single, virgin, divorced, widowed, cleric, lay, religious, regardless of sexual orientation, we are the Lord's! If the primary relationship of the Christian is with Christ, then it is the married person who has "given so much up," not the other way around!
Tom had been invited to tell his story and received a warm welcome. He writes:
"The Called and Gifted seminar in a great idea. We all have received gifts, through Baptism and Confirmation, for the ways God intends his love to reach others through us. This seminar helps people discover these gifts! I hope these types of programs become widespread. I believe that many lay men and women want do more, but do not quite known how to discern God's call. This weekend, a group of wonderful and dedicated Catholics in Faribault, Minnesota are sacrificing their time with family to figure it out. God bless them."
Groups like the one Tom describes are meeting all over the country and other parts of the world from Cairns, Australia to Singapore. As the sister facilitating a discernment group in her mid-western parish wrote us last week. "The process is amazing."
What do we expect? When we start seriously attending to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of real men and women, how could it help but be amazing?
Blogging has gotten short shrift lately - between work and spring time clean -up in the garden and expanding the irrigation system (this time for a 800 sf wildflower bed, one of many I have to fill)
Oh - and there's one more thing: I've been watching Rome: the HBO series recommended by a historian friend of mine, who raves about how that the series gets so many Roman attitudes right.
Set in the Rome of Julius Ceasar and Cicero, and Cato, and Brutus and Pompey, the series doesn't attempt to portray the political and military history of the period with meticulous accuracy - but it does go to great length to portray characters operating from within a truly Roman worldview and the result is both amazing and disturbing.
Imagine a world without a concept of "morality" as we understand it - because there is no idea of universal right and wrong. (There was duty - to the state, to one's family, according to one's status is life.) "Universal human rights?" Unknown. Your "rights" were linked inextricably to your status, not intrinsic to your humanity. A single all powerful, God of self=giving love who is utterly committed to your good, to your ultimate, eternal, happiness, to your salvation, and desires an intimate relationship with you? A God whose character and purposes are pure, incorrupt, and utterly trustworthy? Unimaginable.
Because "God" as we understand him does not exist. Life is saturated with religion but it has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is a religion of fear - because the gods are to out to get you. There are gods for everything - from war to door hinges - and human beings spend their lives constantly sacrificing to (and you have to do the ritual exactly right or its no good) and placating these gods cause if you don't, these powerful, self-absorbed, divine and semi=divine bastards are going to make you pay.
So you invoke the gods to protect your child (as one character does by having a bull slaughtered above and being drenched in the bull's blood) and to destroy your enemy (in one of the most chilling scenes, an elegant matron curses her enemies and promises the gods she will rejoice and sacrifice to them if her enemies are destroyed).
As the historical consultant to Rome points out over and over here, our contemporary western ideas of right and wrong and assumptions about the universe are the outgrowth of Judeo-Christian values which are profoundly different from those that Romans knew before Christ. He also pointed out that many viewers liked the idea of having the "burden" of Judeo-Christian morality lifted from them.
Which is titillating, I suppose, if you are sitting in your clean, bright, safe 21st century living room watching your 50 inch plasma TV.
But what if you were one of the millions of slaves that were the source of Roman wealth. One of the startling things about the series is watching the casual way in which patrician Romans strike and whip their slaves on a whim. Slaves were regarded as being without a soul and kindness to a slave was considered weakness. Slaves who were to testify in court were required by law to be tortured first. Read St. Paul's Letter to Philemon in light of that reality.
Or if you were happily married and your father or mother simply informed you that you would be divorced and married to someone else. Marriage was not a sacrament and the pater familia retained total power over children through out their lives.
Husbands could beat their wives and children whenever they felt like it - to death even - if they were sufficiently displeased. (One main character, Niobe, lives in terror that her soldier husband will find out that she had an affair after being told that her husband had died in battle. Because as she tells her daughter, if he finds out, he will kill usall.) Now re-read Ephesians 4 and see how it sounds.
They tell of a actual letter written by a Roman man to his wife in which he ends matter of factly with this words: "About the child you are about to bear. If it is a boy, keep it. If it is a girl, expose it."
The cumulative force of watching human beings wrestling with the burden of life in a world devoid of the gospel and all it has generated over 2,000 years is stunning.
One of the two main characters (both Roman soldiers mentioned by name by Julius Caesar) is Lucius Vorenus. His is a poignant character. Although Vorenus is a dour, hard man, he is also naturally deeply religious and seems to be longing for a God really worth worshiping and a universe larger than the one he knows. I was irresistibly reminded of the Advent passages: "a people walking in darkness have seen a great light." How i longed to tell Vorenus that there was so much more.
Rome helps you sense in a new way the beauty, the power, the impact, the compelling quality of the gospel when first heard by men and women living in such a world.
It also illuminates anew the extraordinary willingness of the Father to give his son to and the Son to agree to be born into such a world.
The darkness of post-modern post-Christendom is not the darkness of the pre-Christian world. Many Catholic commentators have noted this but we tend to assume that the darkness we deal with is far worse.
Watch Rome and then we'll talk.
(Note: This is not a show for children. There is lots of sex, nudity, and violence and it can be hard even on adult stomachs and spirits. It is beautifully photographed and acted, compelling but dark as was the world it depicts.)
Per the Emerging Models of Pastoral Ministry Conference that was held last weekend (and which we were strongly urged to attend but just couldn't manage). From Catholic New Service:
Reported the results of a four-year study conducted in response to ongoing shifts in the Catholic Church. The study, commissioned in 2002 by a coalition of six Catholic national organizations, received a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to conduct the study and to assess its findings.
With about 28,000 diocesan priests, 70 percent of whom are older than 55, the United States is moving toward clusters of parishes under the care of a single pastor, she said. Indeed, nearly half of all U.S. parishes already share their pastor with another parish or mission.
I've never seen a national figure like this but I'm not surprised.
A number of the dioceses we've worked with are busy cutting the number of parishes in half and twinning or merging communities.
What was announced in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey three weeks ago (38 merged parishes, three parish clusters (involving six parishes) and 22 stand-alone parishes. The reconfiguration, when fully implemented, will bring about an overall reduction in the number of parishes from the current 124 parishes to 66 parishes.) is already present reality or the immediate future for many other dioceses.
The number of priests in the US will continue to decline until about 2015 when we should bottom out and stabilize.
But bringing the proportion of priest to lay Catholic back up to the pre-Vatican II level seems most unlikely. Yes, a higher proportion of Gen X/Millenial generation are becoming priests and religious - but since only 17 - 19% of those generations attend Mass every week (from which the majority of ecclesial vocations come), our overall numbers are not going to go up much.
This is a totally different model of priestly ministry than our practice and theology has assumed and one of the unintended effects of the fact that our Catholic population continues to grow.
What on earth would we do if the 75% of US Catholics who don't attend Mass every Sunday actually showed up? What if all the adults received at Easter were still there a year later?
Here's the deal. Our individual vocations are a mystery hidden in Christ and revealed through an extended relationship with Christ. Intentional discipleship is the source of all vocations.
SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy (CNS) - The body of St. Padre Pio will be exhumed, studied and displayed for public veneration from mid-April to late September, said the archbishop who oversees the shrine where the saint is buried.
Archbishop Domenico D'Ambrosio, papal delegate for the shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, announced Jan. 6 that he and the Capuchin friars of Padre Pio's community had decided it was important to verify the condition of the saint's body and find a way to ensure its preservation.
"A further motive for rejoicing," he said, stems from the fact that the Capuchins, with Vatican approval, "have authorized the exposition and public veneration of the saint's body for several months beginning in mid-April."
In addition to marking the 40th anniversary of Padre Pio's death Sept. 23, 1968, the public veneration of his remains also will coincide with the 90th anniversary of the day on which he was believed to have received the stigmata, bloody wounds recalling the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.
According to the Capuchins, Padre Pio received the stigmata Sept. 20, 1918.
Capuchin friars at the sanctuary at San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy, where Padre Pio's tomb is visited by seven million pilgrims annually, said that "parts of the body" had been found to be "intact". Archbishop D'Ambrosio said the body was in "surprisingly good condition. As soon as we got inside the tomb we could clearly make out the beard. The top part of the skull is partly skeletal but the chin is perfect and the rest of the body is well preserved. The knees, hands, mittens and nails are clearly visible.........If Padre Pio allows me, I might say he looks as though he just had a manicure''. The body would be placed in a glass covered coffin for veneration on 24 April for a period of "several months".
The exhumation of the saint, who was credited with over a thousand miraculous cures, had been approved by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Congregation's Prefect, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, noted that the body of Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963, had also been exhumed when he was beatified, the step before sainthood. The body was found to be unusually well preserved.
Vatican officials said Padre Pio's body had been injected with formalin for burial but "no special measures" were otherwise taken to preserve his body.
CATHOLICS in Kazakhstan are preparing for the ordination of what Church leaders believe is the first priest to come from the country’s native population in modern times.
Up to 80 percent of Catholic priests and most of the faithful in the central Asian republic are foreigners with the rest made up of descendants of immigrants.
As a result, their outreach to the country’s native people is severely hampered but if all goes to plan the situation could change dramatically when on 29th June 25-year-old Ruslan Rakhimberlinov, a teenage convert to Catholicism, is ordained.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Ruslan’s bishop, Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, central Kazakhstan explained: “This is a very historic event – the first ever.”
With his Mongolian physical features as is typical among natives in Kazakhstan, Ruslan is expected to make a big impression in a country where often the Catholic Church is often seen as very foreign.
Bishop Schneider, who will preside at the ordination ceremony, said: “I do not expect there will be an immediate reaction but when the people see him, they will I am sure become accustomed to him.”
For Bishop Schneider, the ordination is hugely important: “The Church has yet to be properly implanted and this is only possible with clergy native to Kazakhstan.”
Today’s Catholic community is made up of descendants of people from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, who were deported to Kazakhstan during the Soviet era. Bishop Schneider said that around Karaganda there was a concentration camp and a series of control centres about the size of France.
This brief note was forwarded to the members of my Province by our Provincial. It's from an unnamed friar in Iraq. I am sure that the anxiety and fear that marks the lives of Christians in Iraq is shared by many of their Muslim neighbors.
“As I am writing this message for you two explosions took place close to Mosul University which is nearby the Spiritual centre. Thank God nothing happened to the convent. All the sisters are safe. Thank God the student sisters were not at the university. They were at the convent. They are safe as well. We are fed up as the situation is getting worse day after day. We can no longer bear the uncertainty of the coming moments or persevere the great amount of the suppressed pressure, panic and fear. On Wednesday at a quarter to eight pm two cars exploded near Alsaa church. Fr. Phillip was with a couple of young men in the priory. Thank God for their safety. They were not even injured. I rang him, but he could hardly give me any news because he was in panic and fear. I phoned him the next morning inquiring if I could go to see him. He said that reaching the place was impossible, but he provided me with these details: great damage was done to the flats that belong to Dominican friars where many Christian families live. Most of the people in these flats were wounded, among them were many children and elderly. Many soldiers who lost their lives were the victim of these explosions. Almost all the fantastic windows of Alsaa church were smashed, the doors were broken and the marvelous clocks fell down. The friars are tired of repairing the church for the third time.”